Mars May Have Rings Like Saturn When Its Moon Shatters

First Posted: Nov 23, 2015 08:17 PM EST

One day, Mars may have rings like Saturn. How is this possible, you ask? It could happen when Mars' moon, Phobos, disintegrates under the planet's force of gravity.

Currently, researchers are watching Phobos in the first stages of its death throes. The moon itself is only about 13.6 miles across and close to its planet. Each year, the gravity of Mars pulls Phobos several inches closer, and runs the risk of causing the moon to either crash into it or tearing it apart.

But what exactly is going to happen? In order to find out, the researchers took information about Phobos, such as its density and strength, and then compared it to a model. They then looked at how Phobos would react about 20 million years from now. In this case, the scientists found that Phobos would break up relatively quickly and eventually form a ring.

In fact, Phobos' breakup would be on the scale of only days or weeks rather than years. It would spread into a large circle, and then would spread out in an orbit around Mars. The ring would last about 1 to 100 million years before the debris fell to the surface of the Red Planet.

The findings reveal a bit more about Phobos and the Mars system.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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