Mars is ‘ripping off’ the largest moon

According to Live Scienceresearchers have revealed that the unusual grooves covering the surface of Phobos, previously thought to be remnants of an ancient asteroid impact, are actually more expanding dust-filled canyons because the moon is stretched by gravity.

Phobos (left) and Deimos (right) orbit Mars. Photo: Shutterstock

Phobos is 27 kilometers in diameter at its widest point and orbits Mars at a distance of 6,000 kilometers, completing three orbits around the red planet every day, according to NASA.

For comparison, Moon Earth’s diameter is about 3,475 km, 384,400 km from our planet and takes about 27 days to complete one orbit.

However, unlike the Moon, Phobos’s orbit around Mars is unstable. This tiny satellite is slowly falling to the surface of Mars at a rate of 1.8 meters every 100 years, according to NASA.

Phobos’s most unusual feature is said to be its mysterious striped surface. Parallel grooves cover this moon.

Detailed image of the ridges on Phobos surface. Photo: NASA

The most popular theory is that the trenches formed when an asteroid hit Phobos in the past, leaving a 9.7-kilometer-wide crater called Stickney.

But the new study was published on November 4 in the journal Planetary Sciencesays the grooves may actually be the result of the moon being slowly torn apart by the gravitational pull of the moon. Mars as it gets closer and closer to the red planet’s surface.

In the case of Phobos, the team thinks that the tidal force acting on the moon will increase as Phobos gets closer to the Martian surface, until it is greater than their gravity. At that point, Phobos will be completely ripped apart and the debris will likely form a small ring around Mars, like the rings of Saturn.

Hai Nguyen (According to Live Science)

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