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Monday, March 19, 2018

Early Mars had three moons, and will soon be one

It is well known that while the Earth has only one natural satellite, and the gas giants of the Solar system there are tens, of Mars only two of them — Phobos and Deimos. But a new study shows that in the past, satellites of the red planet had three, and they all appeared in the result of collision of Mars with another large celestial body. We also found out that in the future, Phobos, as a previously unknown third satellite will crash into Mars.

photo: ru.wikipedia.org

Due to the small size and unusual shape of Phobos and Deimos for a long time it was believed that they were asteroids in the past captured by the gravity of Mars, and not directly related either to the geological history of the red planet, nor to each other. There was some theory that the satellites are all formed simultaneously with the planet around which they revolved. However, the new model proposed by the experts from Belgium, France and Japan, allows you to videonote third version: both satellites appeared due to the fact that in the distant past of Mars collided with another space object, and this caused the formation of satellites. It is worth saying that today a similar scenario is considered the most likely in relation to the Earth’s satellite — the moon.

Modeling the collision of Mars with a large celestial body in the distant past, scientists are not only given a quite plausible scenario, in which quite “fit” Phobos and Deimos into their current orbits, but found that such a collision would lead to the emergence of a third satellite of the red planet — the larger and more massive than his two famous “brother”. According to the model, the third satellite, formed from the more dense parts of the outer body rotates around Mars in the five million years, gradually coming nearer to him and, in the end, falling on its surface.

Experts also note that Mars is gradually approaching another satellite, Phobos, in the future he can repeat the fate of his hypothetical predecessor. It is also possible that even before Phobos will break up into fragments, forming a kind of ring around Mars. As for Deimos, he is far enough from Mars to rotate on a much more stable orbit.

Their study, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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