Phobos will be reborn as a rocky ring around Mars once it reaches its inevitable demise according to planetary scientists with U.C. Berkeley.
Not too long ago one study predicted that Phobos, one of the small moons orbiting the red planet is approaching its demise as gravitational forces and its geological composition are hastening its end. Now, planetary scientists with U.C. Berkeley wanted to get a deeper insight into how Phobos’s end scenario will play out.
As the moon is spiraling ever closer to Mars, it will inevitably crash into it. However, that is not the end of the small moon. Phobos will be reborn as a rocky ring around Mars, much like the rings of gas planets in our solar system – Uranus, Saturn or Jupiter.
Benjamin Black and Tushar Mittal with U.C. Berkeley published their research paper in the Nature Geoscience journal on Monday. What is fascinating about Phobos and its inevitable demise is that it will result in one of the most extraordinary phenomenons: a unique chance to witness a rocky planet circled by a ring.
Phobos is a small moon with a rather porous consistency. As it is orbiting too close to Mars, it is expected that when it will crash into the red planet, it will break into millions of pieces. To understand just how this could happen, the astronomers team compared spectral data collected on Phobos with spectral data on other rocky objects.
It seems that Phobos bears resemblance to CM carbonaceous chondrites, a specific class of meteorites. Some of these fell in 2000 on the Tagish Lake, Canada. CM carbonaceous chondrites aren’t sturdy and rock-solid. They are rather a porous material. Phobos resembles this class of meteorites closely. In addition, the small moon has a very low density. With almost nothing to make up a compact mass, Phobos is at the whim of celestial objects crashing into it.
The small moon’s six-mile-wide crater is believed to be the result of such a devastating impact. Its grooves are also a result of internal and external forces creating these ‘stretch marks’.
Thus, adding to the data, the astronomers team went further to study Phobos with the help of engineering models used on our home planet to determine the safety of underground construction projects.
The results are fascinating. In 20 to 40 million years, tidal forces exerted by Mars are bound to munch away on the softest parts of Phobos. At this point, it is estimated that Phobos will find itself only 3,400 miles distance from Mars’ surface.
However, Phobos will be reborn as rocky ring around Mars even from this incipient phase. The density of this ring is estimated to be similar to that of some of Saturn’s rings. Following this timeframe, what is left of the small moon will be intact until it crashes into Mars’ surface.
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