Could Mars have rings one day?

Here’s something to think about: Mars’ moon Phobos is slowly making its way towards the planet… to the point where at some time, it’ll crash into it entirely. Given the mass of both objects, I think we all know what that would cause. “Boom!” is the best way I like to think of it.

Well, those at UC Berkley have been studying Phobos and the way it has been slowly creeping up on Mars in the past few years. Our moon moves away from Earth about 1-2 centimeters per year, whereas Phobos does that but moves closer. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but rack up those years and soon enough on Earth we won’t have a moon, and Phobos will no longer exist.

Mars & Phobos

So what’s going to happen to Phobos? Benjamin Black, a postdoctoral at UC Berkeley in the Earth and planetary sciences area, says that Mars’ moon has two options. It’ll crash directly into the planet, or it’ll break apart. These studies suggest that if it is to crumble, Phobos could possibly turn into a ring and surround Mars – just like Saturn and its rings.

The way that Mars gravity is pulling on Phobos is strong enough to completely tear the moon apart. When it is to fall into pieces, they will all continue to orbit the planet, making a ring around Mars. But not just any kind of ring, a narrow yet much bigger in size when compared to that of Saturn’s rings.

A lot of questions have been raised, such as things about being able to see the dust and debris from the collision on Earth. Although we don’t know, Professor Black says that “Standing on the surface of Mars a few tens of millions of years from now, it would be pretty spectacular to watch.”

I agree!

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