In a new image from the Hubble telescope, NASA took a series of 13 photos over 22 minutes to more closely examine the Red Planet. What surprised astronomers most was the fact that is was Mars’s moon Phobos who made the most spectacular showing as it progressed across the image. It twinkled like a star as it shot across the the red face of Mars at an extremely short orbital distance of only 3,700 miles.
Phobos is a Sparkling Tiny Moon
Phobos itself is only is no longer than 16.5 miles at its largest dimension. It is one of the smallest moons in the solar system and orbits at the closest altitude to its planet known. However, it is still larger than its Martian sibling Deimos.
The time lapse video shows just an arc of the moon’s total seven hours and thirty-nine minutes orbit of the planet. While it may be beautiful, the photos showed more evidence that gravitational and other forces are gradually destroying the moon. Long grooves showed in close ups of the moon’s surface, sure signs of structural weaknesses in its composition.
Terry Hurford of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said in a statement prior to the new image, “We think that Phobos has already started to fail, and the first sign of this failure is the production of these grooves.”
Mars’s moon is believed to be mostly just a conglomerate of rough material held together by a thin crust. The tidal forces of Mars have twisted it, and eventually, it will break up into many smaller pieces. This moon is getting almost seven feet closer to Mars with every passing year, and that means it will only be about 30 to 50 million years until it either crashes into the planet’s surface or breaks up into a ring around the Red Planet.
Image Source: Wikimedia