Friday, April 8, 2011

Mars' moons created by ancient blast? 09.24.10

Research was released recently that suggests the moons of Mars were actually created from particles from the Martian surface. The research also supports the presence of liquid water in the soil at some point in the past. Dr. Marco Giuranna, of the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome, recently made the presentation at the 2010 European Planetary Science Congress in Rome.

According to the presentation, Mars’ small orbiting moon Phobos is most likely made from rocks that were blasted off the very surface of Mars in a catastrophic event. Another theory suggests that it was made from the remnants of a previous moon—which could have itself been made from Martian rocks and soil— that could have been destroyed by Mars’ gravitational pull. Using a piece of technology known as a PFS (Planetary Fourier Spectrometer), scientists discovered that Phobos contains some of the same compounds as its parent planet, Mars. Jim Friese, staff astronomer at Thronateeska, notes that this means the moons of Mars formed in the same way that the Earth’s moon formed, by being blasted off the surface and joining into solid bodies. The impact on Mars made several moons instead of one like ours. Friese says both Earth and Mars are losing their moons; the Earth’s moon is drifting further away about 1.5 inches a year, and Mars’ moons Deimos and Phobos are falling in, doomed to eventually collide with their parent planet.

In the same research, another discovery was made using PFS: a mineral compound which is only formed through contact with liquid water. This means that at one point in time, whether on Phobos or even on Mars, the soil came into contact with liquid water.

Credit: BBC News Science & Environment.

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