Monday, November 23, 2015

Phobos To Make Mars a Ringed Planet

By Douglas V. Gibbs

In addition to being a political junkie, I love science.  This is why the concept of "science by consensus", like we see with the Global Warming Hoax, drives me nuts.  Science is not about consensus.  It's about seeking the truth through the scientific method, and then seeking to see if that can be disproved with greater understanding of the topic using additional tests, examination, or experimentation.

As a young boy I especially loved astronomy, so concepts put out there by scientists about the heavens always catches my attention.

In recent news, according to a report about the findings by astronomers presented by The Guardian, in about 20-70 million years, Mars will become a ringed planet.  The problem is that Mars' largest moon (of its two moons), a moon that is very small when compared to our own, called Phobos, is slowly working its way towards Mars.  As its downward spiral allows the moon to get too close, the tidal forces of Mars will become too much, and Phobos will plummet towards Mars, and be ripped apart in the process, leaving it to remain as a huge ring of shattered material, to circle Mars much like the rings around Saturn.

The outer planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune all have rings, but they are gas giants.  When Mars joins the club, it will be the first rocky planet in our solar system to support a ring.  Deimos, the other Mars moon, is about half the size of Phobos, and orbits far enough away from the planet that the same fate is not foreseen for the smaller moon.

According to experts, Phobos, which is currently about 6,000 kilometers above Mars in its orbit, edges closer to the fourth planet by about 1.8 centimeter per year.  At that rate, Phobos will begin to skim the planet's atmosphere in 20-70 million years, resulting in either the moon breaking apart in orbit, or slamming into the planet.

Scientists are gathering data on Phobos in the hopes of determining its fate, learning what they can about the Martian moon's density, internal structure, and the varying forces that play a part in its position.  Reports suggest that the largest crater on Phobos, caused by an impact long ago, sent cracks through the moon, and because of these cracks, the moon could begin to break apart as early as 20-40 million years.  The scientists suggest the Martian moon will crumble quickly, and likely become a ring, rather than impact upon the surface of Mars.

In their journal entry in Nature Geoscience, the scientists state the ring could last for a million to one hundred million years.

As the process begins, it is believed that some of the chunks breaking off of the crumbling moon may survive their fall to Mars, and create spectacular collisions with the surface of the planet, but do so with less force than an asteroid or comet impact, coming in slower, and at a shallower angle.

Some have speculated the channels on Phobos may be the first signs of the moon breaking apart.  The channels may be fault lines in the moon.  The long grooves on the Martian moon were first noticed in the 1970s, and recent images from the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter reveal that rather than being a solid lump of rock, Phobos is a bundle of loose rubble, held together by a sronger layer of material.

Though the current studies can only provide speculation, Mars missions in the near future scheduled should be able to determine if the fatal prediction for Phobos is correct.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

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