Scientists now confirm that Mar’s larger moon, Phobos, is gradually disintegrating due to the tidal pull of Mars on the satellite body. Certain grooves showing on Phobos indicate that the gravitational drag of Mars is impacting on its health and slowly causing it to fall apart - reported the New Scientist.
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Scientists could already predict doom for the larger of the two satellites of Mars, but they did not know its destruction would come in this way. Phobos is very close to Mars, and its gravity reducing its orbit and slowing it down in some manner; it was expected that in several million of years, the gravity of Mars would destroy Phobos before it can crash into its parent planet.
But not so anymore. Phobos seems to be wearing out.
The Mariner 9 and Viking orbiters discovered long parallel grooves that were 100-200 meters wide and 10-30 meters long stretching across the surface of the planet in the 1970s – making scientists to think Phobos was just a lump of rock and that the grooves were only cracks that occurred from a massive impact, and that it could as well have been craters created by debris blasted into space by impacts that hit the surface of Mars.
The Mars Express spacecraft in 2008 found that Phobos was a pile of debris held together by a tough layer of dust 50-100 meters thick; meaning that Phobos is nothing different from a beanbag that could get out of shape, yet held together by the stronger outer layer of thick dust.
Based on this discovery, Terry Hurford of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland together with his colleagues estimated the amount of gravitational force that would create stress levels on Phobos, finding that most of the grooves on its surface corresponded with regions it has experiences the greatest stress.
“The grooves are the first sign of tearing it apart,” Hurford said. He be presenting the findings of his team at the meeting of the Geological Society of America on November 4.
Alexander Basilevsky of the Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry in Moscow, also said he found the results of the study very interesting. He reviewed the surface features of Phobos. Basilevsky noted that the grooves could actually be faults, explaining the reason for many of them crossing each other.
This phenomenon is not putting the moon in any danger for now, and Hurford disclosed it could still work for millions of years without any trouble. “We have not looked how far we can go before it completely fails,” Hurford added.
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The only thing is that the strength of the beanbag’s shell or how well it can hold Phobos together remains largely unknown.