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Martian Moon’s Orbit Hints at Ancient Ring

4 Jun 2020, 21:10 UTC
Martian Moon’s Orbit Hints at Ancient Ring
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IMAGE: Mars and its moon Deimos (not to scale). CREDIT: NASA

Using new dynamical models, scientists at the SETI Institute and Purdue University, led by Matija Ćuk, have found new evidence that Mars has had small rings in the past and will likely have them again in the future. This is all part of a cyclic ring theory for Mars. As a stellar astronomer, I’m going to choose to quote from the press release on this one, because I can’t find a better explanation than what they’ve already provided. “Mars’s inner moon, Phobos, is losing height as its tiny gravity is interacting with the looming Martian globe. Soon, in astronomical terms, Phobos’s orbit will drop too low, and Mars’s gravity will pull it apart to make a ring around the planet. Hesselbrock and Minton proposed that over billions of years, generations of Martian moons were destroyed into rings. Each time, the ring would then give rise to a new, smaller moon to repeat the cycle over again.

“This cyclic Martian moon theory has one crucial element that makes Deimos’s tilt possible: a newborn moon would move away from the ring and Mars. Which is in the opposite direction from the ...

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