Published On: Thu, Nov 26th, 2015

Mars’ largest moon Phobos to disintegrate and from a giant ring around the red planet

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Mars’ largest moon, Phobos, is slowly falling towards the planet and is likely to be shredded into pieces that will be strewn about the red planet in a ring like those encircling Saturn and Jupiter, scientists, including one of Indian-origin, say.
The demise of Phobos will probably happen in 20 to 40 million years, leaving a ring that will persist for anywhere from one million to 100 million years.

“Orbiting a mere 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) above the surface of Mars, Phobos is closer to its planet than any other moon in the solar system”, the aeronautical agency’s website said. Phobos will likely break up some 20 to 40 million years from now, the researchers say. “Any large fragment of Phobos that is strong enough to escape tidal breakup will eventually collide with Mars in an oblique, low-velocity impact”, he and Mittal wrote. That collision was so powerful, it came close to shattering Phobos. “Over time it would spread out and get wider, reaching the top of the Martian atmosphere in a few million years, when it would start losing material because stuff would keep raining down on Mars”.

The mass of Mars’s rings won’t be quite as impressive as Saturn’s, but it’ll no doubt provide a pretty spectacular show. Scientists believe once Phobos does break apart, it’ll form a pretty dense ring around Mars, until finally that, too, will break apart.

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