Friday, April 18, 2008

Phobos: Doomed Moon of Mars

Phobos, Mars' largest (but still tiny) moon, is doomed. Hanging in a low orbit, tidal forces will eventually break up the moon, forming a ring around Mars. Hang on for 100 million years or so, and you can see this ring, too. Phobos is likey a captured asteroid, and this high-res view of the moon from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows it's resemblance to other asteroids that have been photographed at high resolution.

The large bowl-like feature is Stickney Crater, named after Chloe Angeline Stickney Hall, mathematician, and wife, of astronomer Asaph Hall. For a large (13 Mb) photo of Phobos, click here. The large (3.5 Mb) photo of Stickney crater is here.

Phobos found at NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) here, and Stickney crater found at APOD here.

Moon over Whidbey Island.

1 comment:

David said...

too bad Phobos is so small (27 km diameter) that we probably couldn't see the ring. It certainly wouldn't be as spectacular as Saturn. I also thought there was a chance it would just crash into the surface of Mars.

I think what's really cool about Phobos is it's orbiting distance of only 9000 km, compared to 380,000 km for our moon.

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