Posted on Jul 25, 2020 in Astronomy, Science
A mysterious origin and science fiction speculation at Arthur C. Clarke level about the 17 mile wide, deeply grooved moon as an extraterrestrial artifact captured in the ancient past by the gravitational field of Mars could explain Russia’s almost mystical obsession with Phobos. First the Soviet Union, then more recently Russia, made three attempts to reach the enigmatic object, but software bugs and startup disasters canceled any attempt.
In 2016, the BBC reported that a mysterious monolith object was discovered by a NASA probe a few years ago, and to this day no one is entirely sure what it is or how it got there.
“When people find out about it, they’ll say, ‘Who put this there? Who put that there? “Said Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon in 2009, about the peculiar and lonely great rock, a monolith that sits on the surface of Phobos and is named after the ancient Greek word for” fear “. .
Japan’s MMX mission
Back to the present: Japan is on deck planning to launch its MMX mission to Phobos in 2024 for rock sampling to decipher the chemistry of the strange moon and decipher its origin, as well as clues to the existence of life on ancient Mars Robin George Andrews reports for the New York Times. Meteors crashing into Mars could have covered Phobos with a layer of Martian dust that can be both very young and extremely old. This shows “how Mars went from being an inhabitable to an uninhabitable world,” says Tomohiro Usui, an expert on planetary robots research with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, currently at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
“They’re super weird, confusing, and interesting,” said Abigail Fraeman, a planetary scientist who studied Mars, Phobos, and its tiny sister moon Deimos at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “They’re checking all the boxes that match these trapped asteroids,” Fraeman said. “They just shouldn’t exist,” added Fraeman. “They don’t make sense.”
Enduring secret of the dark moons of Mars Phobos and Deimos
Primitive trapped asteroids?
The debate about the origin of the two moons has split scientists for decades since the dawn of planetary research. In visible light, Phobos and Deimos look much darker than Mars and resemble the primitive asteroids of the outer solar system, suggesting that the moons are asteroids that were trapped in the gravitational pull of Mars long ago. However, the shapes and angles of the moons’ orbits do not fit the trapping hypothesis. Some scientists suggest that the moons must have formed at the same time as Mars or were due to a massive impact on the planet during its formative millennia.
Stickney Crater notices
A 2018 study by Brown University suggests that the strange, distinctive grooves that criss-cross the surface of Phobos were created by rolling boulders that were blasted free from an ancient asteroid impact that created the Stickney Crater, a giant one 9-kilometer cut at one end of Phobos’ elongated body (pictured) at the top of the page. Computer models show that boulders rolling across the surface after Stickney’s impact may have created the enigmatic patterns of grooves first seen by NASA’s Mariner and Viking missions in the 1970s. Some scientists suspect that Mars’ gravity is slowly tearing Phobos apart and the grooves are signs of structural failure.
“Rolling Stones” – Mars Weird Moon Phobos: Boulders that were blown free from an ancient impact
In less than 100 million years, Matija Ćuk, a scientist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., Said Phobos, which may have been assembled only 200 million years ago, will get so close to Mars that its gravity will tear Mars apart Moon apart, turning into a mini-Saturn-like system of rings.
“It won’t be the first time, say some scientists,” reports the New York Times. But as one hypothesis suggests, it drifted towards Mars and broke into ring material, with much of it raining on Mars. The remaining ring material clumped together into a new, smaller Phobos. This cycle has repeated itself several times over billions of years, with Phobos shrinking with each completed cycle. “
Scientists could get their answer to the origins of Phobos in the next few years as the Martian Moon eXploration starship completes its mission to collect samples and bring them back to Earth for analysis.
The Daily Galaxy, Max Goldberg on the New York Times and the BBC
Photo credit: NASA / JPL / University of Arizona