A group of researchers found that Mars may be on the course of becoming a ringed planet just like Saturn. Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, think that the Red Planet may have its own debris rings in a few tens of millions of years when its closest moon, Phobos, is completely destroyed.
Researchers explained that the tiny moon is getting closer to the planet every year. This is why Mars’ gravitational pull is getting increasingly stronger and may at one point make the moon break apart. Other researchers believe that the moon may end up crushing into Mars, but Berkeley researchers do not think that the satellite may last that long.
Tushar Mittal, co- author of the study and Brekeley graduate student, explained that the fate of Phobos depends on how long the small moon would withstand the increasing tidal pressure coming from Mars. If it makes it to the end, it would crush into the planet, if it doesn’t, it would break apart, Mittal added.
Phobos was named after the offspring of the Roman Greek of war with the Roman goddess of love and beauty Venus, while the other moon of Mars was named after Phobos’ twin brother, Deimos.
Phobos, though it is the largest Martian moon, is only 14 miles across, and it has such a small orbit that it rises and sets twice a day on Mars.
Researchers calculated that the moon is getting closer to Mars by 6.5 feet every century. Past studies showed that the outcome of this phenomenon may be a final crash into the Red planet in the next 30 million to 50 million years.
But Berkeley computer models show that the tidal forces of Mars will more likely rip the moon apart rather than put it on a collision course. Earth also exerts tidal forces on the moon, and so does the moon on our planet. This is how ocean tides are formed.
In the study, Mittal and fellow researcher Benjamin Black measured the density and composition of Phobos to see how much more gravitational stress the moon would be able to endure.
The two researchers concluded that the moon is too porous and damaged both on the inside and outside to live to see a collision. Computer simulations showed that within 30 million to 40 million years Phobos would be smashed and form a ring of rocky debris around its planet in the next 1 million to 100 million years. As particles would continue to fall down on Mars the ring would become less dense than Saturn’s, researchers believe.
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