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."