NASA announces that one of Mars’ moons is destined to crash on its surface

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Observing a solar eclipse is always an interesting event for astronomy enthusiasts. In early April, the solar eclipse of Phobos (one of the two moons of Mars) was captured on video by the Perseverance rover on Mars, in unprecedented quality. At the same time, this allows astrophysicists to study the orbit of Phobos, which has been approaching the red planet over the years. The Martian satellite would already begin to break down and eventually crash into Mars in about 30 million years.

On April 2, NASA’s Perseverance rover captured breathtaking images of the Phobos solar eclipse from Mars. 397And day (or earth) of the mission, the Mastcam-Z camera aboard the rover was able to capture the 40 seconds of the eclipse, which is much shorter than a solar eclipse of the Earth’s Moon. That said, you should know that Phobos – shaped like a potato – is still 157 times smaller than the Moon: 26 km by 18, versus 1700 km.

These images are the latest (but not the first) of NASA’s spacecraft capturing a solar eclipse on Mars. In 2004 and for the first time, the Spirit and Opportunity rovers took photos of the Phobos solar eclipse. New this year is the video quality, the most enlarged and sharp so far.

A planned end of life

The main goal of observing this eclipse is to study how Phobos’ orbit evolves over the years, as the satellite is destined to disappear. ” Scientists already know that Phobos is doomed: the moon is approaching the Martian surface and is destined to crash into the planet in a few tens of millions of years “, NASA reported in a press release. ” But observations of eclipses from the surface of Mars over the past two decades have also allowed scientists to sharpen their understanding of Phobos’ slow death spiral. “.

In question, the gravitational pull of the natural satellite by the red planet. Also, on the contrary, the gravity exerted by Phobos on Mars generates tidal forces on the planet, which slightly deforms the rock of its mantle and its crust. The Martian satellite would approach Mars by about two meters every hundred years, due to gravity.

Small fragments of Mars have already begun to collide with Phobos

Previous search showed “stretch marks” on the surface of Phobos, signs of the collapse of the Martian moon. If the researchers initially thought that the grooves were created when a body hit Phobos (a meteor impact), they are now moving towards another explanation: these grooves would have been created when small materials displaced from the planet Mars hit the surface of Phobos. The researchers also reported that some furrows looked younger than others, which explains the chosen term “stretch marks”.

Phobos is a very fragile satellite that deforms easily, its core is made up of a bunch of rocks that barely hold together. It will eventually break apart completely and its pieces will eventually crash into Mars … Until then, it’s not too late to send humans to explore the planet.

Right now, the Perseverance mission is focusing its attention on the astrobiology of Mars and the search for signs of life. ” The rover will characterize the geology and climate of the planet’s past, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and hide Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust) “Continues NASA. The collected samples will then be sent to Earth for analysis, with a view to future exploration of Mars.

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