Monday, April 14, 2008

Mars May Have Rings in Its Future

NASA’s exploration of the Martian system continues to intrigue Pound360 with a new set of hi-res pictures. The latest set of snapshots are not of Mars, but one of its moons, Phobos. Yes, Mars has moons. Two of them (Phobos and Deimos), both “thought to be captured asteroids,” says the BBC in a write up on the Phobos photos.

Here, meet Phobos:

(Photo Courtesy NASA/JPL)

Cratered. Grooved. One ugly SOB. Phobos has taken quite a beating, you can tell. But it may end up as the foundation for a beautiful set of rings in another 50 million years or so.

As it turns out, Phobos is locked in a descending orbit. Every 100 years, explains the BBC, Phobos’ orbit sinks about 6 feet. This means “it will either crash into Mars or break up into a ring.” Either way, Earth observers (whether they be our robot offspring or advanced cockroach astronomers) are in for quite a show.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.