It doesn’t take a space expert to know what Phobos is, but if you do not know anything about it there is no shame in that either. Phobos is one of Mars’ moons, the biggest and closest one to the Red Planet, and it has been known for a few decades for its interesting condition. Phobos is dying, but scientists were not fully aware of this until now and the way in which it is breaking apart is a very interesting matter that helps us understand how celestial objects work.
Phobos is scarred with many, awkward-looking grooves, grooves that have stirred the interest of many star-viewers since 1976. The first and obvious thoughts blamed Stickney, Phobos’ huge crater that is practically half the moon. Obviously, if something struck Phobos that hard it would be just a piece of cake to create the rest of the grooves. But this was not the case.
What is happening is that Phobos is way too close to its planet and this proximity is the reason for its imminent demise. The moon is practically within Mars’ gravity and the planet is slowly pulling it down with a speed of 6 feet per hundred years. This is obviously not a great distance and NASA has already estimated that it will tale around 30 to 50 million years for the moon to collide with its host planet.
The “relationship” between Mars and Phobos is a close one, closer than any other moon and its host in our solar system. Imagine that the distance between Earth and our Moon is 250,000 miles while the distance between Phobos and the Red planet is that of 3,700 miles. After seeing the numbers you will find it quite natural that this event is occurring. However, the time that it will take in order to finish itself is quite considerable.
The other issue at stake is that Phobos’ core might not be as solid as researchers believed before. Back in 1976, it was theorized that the moon was an all-round solid object that has the capacity to hold itself together, but sky-viewers are not so sure about that anymore. Modern day astrological thinking implies that Phobos is barely holding all of its pieces together because its interior is half empty. This makes it a big balloon in outer space, more or less.
Phobos is dying and the bad news is that we will no longer be around to see it when it gets to pop on Mars’ surface.
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