According to a new study, Mars may have once looked quite different on the night sky. The researchers suggest that the Red Planet may have once had a ring instead of two moons. Also, they consider that it could do so again. This may happen as one of its satellites could be stuck in a renewal-destruction circle.
Research on the matter was carried out by Andrew Hesselbrock and David Minton from the Purdue University. Study results were released on March 20th. They were published in the Nature Geoscience journal. The paper is titled “An ongoing satellite-ring cycle of Mars and the origins of Phobos and Deimos”.
Mars Had A Ring But No Moons?
The study was looking to offer insight into Mars’s misshapen moons. Called Phobos and Deimos, science has been trying to establish their origin. Research then led the two scientists to the following theory. Around 4.3 billion years ago, a large space object, possibly an asteroid, slammed into Mars.
This event would have led to noticeable changes in the planet’s appearance. A most observable one would be a huge dent in its surface. The team believes that the Borealis basin may actually be this trace. Borealis is a large basin-like structure observed in the planet’s northern hemisphere.
Such a powerful impact would have also hurled debris and also blasted off a significant quantity of material. This latter could have eventually formed into a ring or even more, which then surrounded Mars. Eventually, this rings may have banded together and formed Deimos and Phobos.
Come From A Ring, Return To Another?
According to the team, the story may not end here. Computer models suggest that Mars may once again be surrounded by debris rings. This time around, they may come from Phobos. The researchers claim that the misshapen moon may have already gone through several birth to rebirth cycles.
Models show that such an event could have already taken place 3 to 7 times since Phobos’s first formation. The process could be triggered by the Red Planet’s tidal forces. Their influence may have eventually broken apart the small moon. But, in its turn, this may have continued reforming and started the process all over again.
However, each new moon was reportedly smaller than its predecessor. It could have been even 5 times the size of its parent moon. As Phobos broke apart, its debris would have spread and formed a ring. Material would have also ended up on Mars. Which could also explain the sedimentary deposits detected near its equator. This is all according to the research team.
Minton stated that “[…] there are enigmatic sedimentary deposits on Mars with no explanation as to how they got there. Now it’s possible to study that material.”
If the theory proves right, Phobos may well be on its road to destruction. As such, its next disintegration could take place in about 70 million years. Which means that Mars may once again have its own ring or even a set of them.
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