The moons of Mars may be the wreckage of a long-lost moon

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(ORDO NEWS) — Simulations have shown that Phobos and Deimos could have appeared a couple of billion years ago, as a result of the death of the ancient satellite of Mars.

Two small satellites revolve around Mars – Phobos and Deimos. They grow only about 23 and 11 kilometers in diameter and have an irregular shape, which resembles a potato rather than a ball. Therefore, it is assumed that, unlike our Moon, the Martian ones did not form near the planet, but were once ordinary asteroids captured by its gravity. However, the orbits of Phobos and Deimos suggest otherwise.

Trapped asteroids would be expected to remain elongated and tilted relative to the planet’s equatorial plane. In reality, they remain circular and oriented in the same way as a rotating Mars. Therefore, there are other hypotheses of the origin of local moons – for example, after the fall of an asteroid on the planet.

The authors of a new article, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, have come out in favor of an alternative hypothesis for the origin of the satellites of the Red Planet. She suggests that Phobos and Deimos have a common origin and were the result of the destruction of a common maternal body.

Domenico Giardini and colleagues at ETH Zurich conducted computer simulations to reconstruct the history of the Mars system and its moons. It was found that although today Phobos and Deimos revolve in orbits of different heights and at different speeds, in the distant past their paths converge. Therefore, scientists assume that the planet once had only one satellite, which rotated almost synchronously with Mars, but it was destroyed by a comet or asteroid impact somewhere from a billion to 2.7 billion years ago.

Scientists hope to refine and narrow this gap by obtaining more complete data on the geophysics of Phobos and Deimos – for example, using the Japanese mission Martian Moons Exploration. Scheduled for the second half of the 2020s, it should deliver soil samples from Phobos to Earth. There is a possibility of launching a similar Russian mission “Boomerang”, the project of which is being prepared by the Lavochkin NGO.


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