Hubble Telescope Captures Mars Moon Phobos Orbiting Around The Planet

Posted: Jul 22 2017, 9:42pm CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Hubble Telescope Captures Mars Moon Phobos Orbiting Around the Planet
This image is a composite of several images acquired by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA, ESA

The images of Phobos orbiting the Red Planet were taken on May 12, 2016, when Mars was relatively close to Earth

NASA’s Hubble Telescope has captured a unique time-lapse movie of Martian moon Phobos as it orbited around the planet. In the sequence, Phobos emerges from behind the Mars and passes in front of the planet. The moon looks so small that it could easily be mistaken with a star.

Phobos is the larger of Mars' two moons. It is closer to its host planet than any other moon in the solar system and it takes it just 7 hours and 39 minutes to complete an orbit.

Mars’ gravitational pull is drawing Phobos closer and closer. Every 100 years, the moon is approaching Mars by about 2 meters or 6.5 feet. As the moon is getting dangerously close to its planet, it could be shredded into pieces and likely form rings Saturn-like around Mars. Scientists predict that this could happen between 30 and 50 million years.

Thought Phobos is the largest moon of Mars, it is still one of smallest natural satellites in our solar system. The moon is 27 by 22 by 18 km in diameter and could easily fit inside Washington, D.C. Beltway.

The origin of Phobos is not yet fully determined. But researchers suspect that it could be caused by collision between Mars and another body.

“Phobos may be a pile of rubble that is held together by a thin crust. It may have formed as dust and rocks encircling Mars were drawn together by gravity. Or, it may have experienced a more violent birth, where a large body smashing into Mars flung pieces skyward, and those pieces were brought together by gravity. Perhaps an existing moon was destroyed, reduced to the rubble that would become Phobos.” NASA statement said.

The images of Phobos orbiting the Red Planet were taken on May 12, 2016 days before Mars came closest to the Earth in 11 years.

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