The gas giants as seen from Mars!As part of geometric calibrations, some days ago our @esamarswebcam on Mars Express observed Jupiter and Saturn in conjunction. This GIF of the observation shows the movement of the 2 planets (Jupiter moves faster because it is closer), pic.twitter.com/At5SmvbVrfApril 6, 2020
If you've caught a splendid look at Mars (opens in new tab), Jupiter and Saturn in the past few weeks, get ready for a major perspective shift.
While Earthlings were treated to a close approach of Mars and Saturn on March 31 and many views of the trio of worlds in the night sky over the past few weeks, a spacecraft orbiting Mars has also been getting in on the skywatching.
The European Space Agency's (ESA) Mars Express spacecraft has been circling the Red Planet since 2003, and among its instruments is the Visual Monitoring Camera, which the agency bills as a "Mars webcam." But while the camera spends most of its time looking at the Red Planet, it can pivot to look out into space.
And lately, the instrument has been doing just that, as spacecraft personnel ordered the camera to conduct some geometric calibration observations. "Current geometry for the camera is good," ESA wrote in a statement (opens in new tab), "but the team are trying to acquire more deep-sky images to cover uniformly the sensor and reduce uncertainties."
Those deep-sky images include photos of a conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn. The agency combined images taken on March 21 and March 25 to produce an animation of the spacecraft's view of the planets during the event. The images also show Jupiter appearing to move more rapidly than Saturn, on account of its closer position to Mars and the spacecraft, according to ESA (opens in new tab).
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