Mars Is Slowly Getting A Ring, Scientists Say, Due to Dying Moon Phobos
Beyonce taught us all a very important lesson in 2008: If you like it, then you should have put a ring on it. Mars is now taking her words to heart.
According to a very important study, somebody liked Mars enough to put a ring on it, albeit in about 20 to 40 million years. Sometimes, our happily ever afters take longer than we thought they would.
Why is Mars getting a ring? It’s all due to Mars’s planet Phobos, which is unlikely to survive very long. The satellite has been called “dying” because the moon is losing altitude because of the pull of Mars’s gravity. Phobos has been showing signs of structural stress because of these tidal forces, and since it’s already survived damage from a crash millions of years ago, the moon is weak, and likely to break up.
Why do all good relationships end?
Fortunately, Phobos won’t leave without a dying gift: a ring for Mars. Nature Geoscience published research earlier this month that concludes that Phobos will probably break apart somewhere in the next 20 to 40 million years (stay tuned for the live stream) and that the debris will form a cloud that will assemble into a ring around the planet.
The ring will start out being as dense as Saturn’s rings, and will last for up to 100 million years. Scientists are interested in this phenomenon because it offers them the opportunity to study the solar system’s last “inwardly migrating” moon.
The authors of the study wrote:
“Inwardly migrating satellites — some of which may break up tidally, some of which may collide with their primaries — are likely to be an under-appreciated and important component of planetary evolution.
“Phobos offers the last possible glimpse of the signatures and processes that applied to inwardly migrating moons and the interplay with ring formation early in our solar system’s history.”
Breaking news, indeed.