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Chariot of Fear

Also, the spectrum of Phobos is a dead ringer for that of the Tagish Lake meteorite , a porous carbonaceous chondrite that fell onto a frozen lake in To Hurford and his team, all this suggests that the many grooves are akin to stretch marks created as the interior shifts around and fractures. Curiously, the pattern of grooves on the moon's northern half provides a remarkable fit to the stress calculations, yet the southern half has grooves oriented much more randomly.

Some grooves appear fresher than others, implying that the tidal deconstruction of Phobos is going on now.

The timetable for Phobos' demise depends critically on how much of a tide its gravity is creating inside Mars, and estimates for that vary. If the Martian interior is relatively "squishy," yielding stronger tides, then Phobos has at most 25 million years before its ultimate plunge. A stiffer Mars, which some researchers support, might give the moon another 70 million years. Regardless, bad things will happen to Phobos once its orbit drops too close to the Martian surface. Exactly what will take place and when depends on the moon's interior structure, and researchers Benjamin A.

They conclude that Phobos won't simply plunge intact into Mars. Instead, it's more likely that the moon's dusty, outer layer will stripped away first, creating a temporary ring around Mars very quickly — in just a week or so. Once Phobos comes close enough to Mars, the planet's gravity will create tides in the moon's interior strong enough to tear it apart.

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One possible outcome is that the moon's outer layers will be drawn away first, rapidly creating a ring around Mars that could last for tens of millions of years. Depending on how much mass it sucks away from the moon, the ring might initially rival Saturn's in its particle density — but Saturn's will likely still appear brighter because its ring consists of icy bits whereas particles in a Phobos-derived ring would be nearly black. In any case, Black and Mittal calculate that, once formed, the ring could linger for anywhere from 1 to million years.

Meanwhile, the solid chunks of Phobos will meet a quicker end.

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They'll strike the surface, creating a series of oblique craters around the planet's equator. If big pieces break apart while plunging through the atmosphere, they could strafe the surface and create chains of craters sorted in size by the fragments' masses. Then that beautiful but ephemeral ring will be all that remains of Phobos, and Deimos out of danger thanks to its higher orbit will become Mars' lone moon. Explore the Red Planet with our unique inch globes. Choose the one with natural coloring or with color-coded topographic details.

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In Depth | Phobos – NASA Solar System Exploration

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Head was one of the first to propose this idea back in the s. Phobos is a small moon, only 27 km wide at its widest point. Compared to that, the Stickney crater named after the wife of Phobos discoverer, Asaph Hall is enormous.

At 9 km across, it dominates the tiny moon. Stickney is so big, it has another smaller crater inside it.

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An impact the size of Stickney would have ejected tons of boulders away from the surface, and when they fell back, they would have caused the grooves. But there are a couple sticking points. Some of the grooves cross on top of other grooves, which mean they must have been created at different times.

And some grooves run right through the Stickney crater, meaning the crater had to be there already when the grooves formed. The surface of Phobos also has a so-called dead spot where there are no grooves. According to Ramsley, he had no expectations of what the model would show.

Meet MMX, Japan's sample return mission to Phobos

But he was surprised at how well the model re-created the grooves on Phobos. It showed that the boulders tended to align themselves in sets of parallel paths, which agrees with the sets of parallel grooves on Phobos. The models also provide a potential explanation for some of the other more puzzling groove patterns.