STATES CHRONICLE – The two small Martian moons are believed to have been rings in the past, in the early stages of our solar system. Deimos and Phobos may have formed rings around Mars. They are less likely to have been captured from the asteroid belt by the gravity of the Red Plant. The new study was recently published in the Nature Geoscience magazine.
Minton and Hesselbrock developed a new theory about Mars’ moons
Based on the new research developed by David Minton and Andrew Hesselbrock, both researchers at the Purdue University, the small moons of Mars may be the result of a process of ring formation and destruction which encircled the planet, being initially triggered by the impact of a massive object more than four billion years ago.
One or even more such celestial objects may have dispersed debris into space, creating a ring near the limit of which any celestial body would be caught into the gravity field of the planet. This limit or threshold is known as the Roche Limit. Scientists estimated that approximately 80% of the detritus from the impact fell back on the surface of the Red Planet, while the rest remained floating at the Roche Limit, coalescing into moons.
Researchers claim that the Martian moons may have been rings around the planet in the past
As time passed by, these celestial objects which are known as moons would have been attracted toward the planet due to gravitational interactions which occurred between Mars and the debris. These Martian moons orbit faster around the planet compared with Mars’ speed of rotation. Thus, tidal interactions would have slowed down these celestial objects and outer, bigger moons would have engulfed inner, smaller ones.
The remaining moon would be attracted towards Red Planet’s Roche Limit and be torn into pieces, and the debris would form a new ring. As this cycle repeated, the moons became smaller and smaller because more detritus fell back on the surface of Mars. Minton and Hesselbrock argue that they believe that six such cycles have happened up to this moment.
By using the mass of a moon, researchers could establish the size of the first ring. In a similar way, by knowing the size and weight of the ring, researchers can work backward and compute the size of the moon which was torn apart into millions of pieces of debris that formed the ring. This hypothesis could be correct since there are some areas on Mars covered in sand, as a result of the rubble which fell back on the surface of the planet.
Image source: flickr