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Space & Astronomy

Mars may one day have its own ring system

By T.K. Randall
November 25, 2015 · Comment icon 6 comments



The gravitational forces of Mars could tear Phobos apart. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Phobos, one of the two small moons of Mars, could eventually break apart and encircle the planet.
Saturn's spectacular rings have long made it one of the wonders of the solar system, but there is another planet that, in the distant future, might get the chance to inherit a ring system of its own.

The key lies in Phobos - one of the moons of Mars. Unlike our own moon which is 238,900 miles from the Earth, Phobos orbits only 3,700 miles above Mars and is getting closer all the time.
In somewhere around 20 to 40 million years it will get so close that the gravitational stress will literally tear Phobos apart - producing enough dust and debris to encircle the planet.

"Compared to Saturn's rings, we expect a future Martian ring to be much smaller and contain much less material," said geologist and study co-author Benjamin Black.

"But because that material will be spread over a smaller ring area, we predict that the initial density of a ring formed from the breakup of Phobos could rival or exceed the density of Saturn's rings."



Source: Popular Science | Comments (6)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by pallidin 7 years ago
Off the subject a little bit but I sometimes wonder if our civilization would be in any way different if Saturn were much closer to the earth and we would behold the beauty of its rings and wonder in times past about any spiritual connotation or whatever.
Comment icon #2 Posted by highdesert50 7 years ago
I would like to believe that we will view awe of the rings of Mars from the surface of Mars; that we as a civilization made a 21st century commitment to establish a new world on Mars.
Comment icon #3 Posted by KolchacktheNightStalker 7 years ago
Off the subject a little bit but I sometimes wonder if our civilization would be in any way different if Saturn were much closer to the earth and we would behold the beauty of its rings and wonder in times past about any spiritual connotation or whatever. If Saturn was to close, it's gravity would have a marked affect on Earth's revolution I'd think.
Comment icon #4 Posted by coolguy 7 years ago
This is cool, I also saw on a tv show that one of Mars moons will hit the planet in a thousand years or so
Comment icon #5 Posted by Frank Merton 7 years ago
If Saturn was to close, it's gravity would have a marked affect on Earth's revolution I'd think. That applies no matter what it might be that is "too close." The orbit would also be changed .It ain't gonna happen for at least a few million years, and the chances are overwhelming that you can add several more zeros to that estimate.
Comment icon #6 Posted by KolchacktheNightStalker 7 years ago
Well, sure. My point was that if it had happened while we were still developing, good chance that the change in orbit would be disasterous, not wonderous.


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