The Martian moon Phobos is not far from this Universe.
According to astronomers’ calculations, the potato-shaped satellite is slowly, but surely, getting closer to its home planet. Eventually, within about 100 million years, the gravitational interaction between the two bodies will tear Phobos apart, turning the red world into a temporary ring of dust.
According to a new study, this attractive interaction may already have visible results. Little by little, the shallow parallels that cover it the month of All of this rotation can be the cause of the fracture as the canal slowly decays and the force of the waves pulls on the bones.
“Our research is consistent with the appearance of Phobos that can break up due to failure, as a precursor to the end of the orbiting satellite,” wrote a team of astronomers led by Bin Cheng from Tsinghua University in China and the university. of Arizona.
The wave force that pulls bodies into a system is the result of their gravitational interaction, stretching their arms along a line that runs between them.
In most cases, any problem this distortion may have on a solid surface is minimal. While tidal forces can be easily seen in the movement of our planet’s oceans, the effects seen on land are less predictable.
This does not mean that wave forces between other solid bodies cannot have obvious effects. Stretching due to the force of the waves can sometimes cause stress. We’ve seen this in Saturn’s moon Enceladus, whose icy shell has deep, symmetrical cracks in its southern part due to tidal stress.
With an orbit of only 7 hours and 39 minutes, Phobos is the closest to Mars, approaching at a rate of 1.8 centimeters per year. In the vicinity, it is possible that the tidal forces could create an eruption 27 kilometers- (16.8 miles-) wide. The idea that Phobos’ streaks are the result of such an interaction has been considered before and found to be plausible.
However, it is not known whether the current configuration and conjunction of Phobos and Mars can produce the observed lines, as well as other explanations for the movement. For example, a 2018 study found that bruises can be caused by rolling stones.
So Cheng and his colleagues performed a 3D mathematical analysis that clearly examines the waves stretched and squeezed by a Phobos-like body, and the loose outer surface that sits above the contact layer below.
The researchers performed hundreds of simulations using their model. In these simulations, wave forces caused the contact layer to split and fracture along parallel lines, causing the surface regolith to flow out into the gaps below. The result is a striped, slanted pattern very similar to the areas seen on Phobos.
Not all areas of Phobos were consistent with the model, the team found. Especially, grooves around the month of the equator did not match the predictions. But the results show that some bruises can be caused by a fracture like month the movement towards death and the ebb and flow of the waves. This means that we are seeing the beginning of the end of Phobos.
These results, therefore, may have implications for studying other decaying moons, such as Neptune’s moon Triton. The debris could also reveal Phobos’ past, making the site a very interesting study area for the upcoming mission of the Mars moon by the Japan Space Agency.
The work is expected to provide definitive evidence of the origins of these mysterious streaks – but tidal disruption seems an intriguing possibility.
“Considering Phobos as an inner mass covered by a contact layer, we see that the end of the wave can create ripples similar to the stable surface,” the researchers wrote in their paper.
“Our research shows that some craters on the surface of Phobos may be the first signs of the end of the orbiting satellite.”
Mashed potatoes, anyone?
Research has been published in The Planetary Science Journal.