Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Does Mars have rings? Not right now, but maybe one day

21.03.2017

As children, we learned about our solar system's planets by certain characteristics -- Jupiter is the largest, Saturn has rings, Mercury is closest to the sun. Mars is red, but it's possible that one of our closest neighbors also had rings at one point and may have them again someday.

That's the theory put forth by Purdue University scientists, whose findings were published in the journal Nature Geoscience. David Minton, assistant professor of Earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences, and Andrew Hesselbrock, a doctoral student in physics and astronomy, developed a model that suggests that debris that was pushed into space from an asteroid or other body slamming into Mars around 4.3 billion years ago and alternates between becoming a planetary ring and clumping up to form a moon.


Phobos, a Martian moon, might eventually disintegrate and form a ring around the red planet, according to a new theory by Purdue University scientists. The NASA-funded research indicates that this process of moons breaking apart into rings and then reforming as moons may have happened several times over billions of years.

Image by Purdue University Envision Center

A theory exists that Mars' large North Polar Basin or Borealis Basin, which covers about 40 percent of the planet in its northern hemisphere, was created by that impact, sending debris into space.

"That large impact would have blasted enough material off the surface of Mars to form a ring," Hesselbrock said. Hesselbrock and Minton's model suggests that as the ring formed and the debris slowly moved away from the planet and spread out, it began to clump and eventually formed a moon. Over time, Mars' gravitational pull would have pulled that moon toward the planet until it reached the Roche limit, the distance within which the planet's tidal forces will break apart a celestial body that is held together only by gravity.

Phobos, one of Mars' moons, is getting closer to the planet. According to the model, Phobos will break apart upon reaching the Roche limit and become a set of rings in roughly 70 million years. Depending on where the Roche limit is, Minton and Hesselbrock believe this cycle may have repeated between three and seven times over billions of years. Each time a moon broke apart and reformed from the resulting ring, its successor moon would be five times smaller than the last, according to the model, and debris would have rained down on the planet, possibly explaining enigmatic sedimentary deposits found near Mars' equator.

"You could have had kilometer-thick piles of moon sediment raining down on Mars in the early parts of the planet's history, and there are enigmatic sedimentary deposits on Mars with no explanation as to how they got there," Minton said. "And now it's possible to study that material."

Other theories suggest that the impact with Mars that created the North Polar Basin led to the formation of Phobos 4.3 billion years ago, but Minton said it's unlikely the moon could have lasted all that time. Also, Phobos would have had to form far from Mars and would have had to cross through the resonance of Deimos, the outer of Mars' two moons. Resonance occurs when two moons exert gravitational influence on each other in a repeated periodic basis, as major moons of Jupiter do. By passing through its resonance, Phobos would have altered Deimos' orbit. But Deimos' orbit is within one degree of Mars' equator, suggesting it has had no effect on Phobos.

"Not much has happened to Deimos' orbit since it formed," Minton said. "Phobos passing through these resonances would have changed that."

Richard Zurek of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, is the project scientist for NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, whose gravity mapping provided support for the hypothesis that the northern lowlands were formed by a massive impact.

"This research highlights even more ways that major impacts can affect a planetary body," he said.

Minton and Hesselbrock will now focus their work on either the dynamics of the first set of rings that formed or the materials that have rained down on Mars from disintegration of moons.

###

NASA funded this study.

Media Contact

Steve Tally
steve@purdue.edu
765-494-9809

 @PurdueUnivNews

http://www.purdue.edu/ 

Steve Tally | EurekAlert!

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Long-distance quantum information exchange -- success at the nanoscale
18.03.2019 | University of Copenhagen

nachricht How heavy elements come about in the universe
18.03.2019 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Revealing the secret of the vacuum for the first time

New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum

For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...

Im Focus: Sussex scientists one step closer to a clock that could replace GPS and Galileo

Physicists in the EPic Lab at University of Sussex make crucial development in global race to develop a portable atomic clock

Scientists in the Emergent Photonics Lab (EPic Lab) at the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough to a crucial element of an atomic clock - devices...

Im Focus: Sensing shakes

A new way to sense earthquakes could help improve early warning systems

Every year earthquakes worldwide claim hundreds or even thousands of lives. Forewarning allows people to head for safety and a matter of seconds could spell...

Im Focus: A thermo-sensor for magnetic bits

New concept for energy-efficient data processing technology

Scientists of the Department of Physics at the University of Hamburg, Germany, detected the magnetic states of atoms on a surface using only heat. The...

Im Focus: The moiré patterns of three layers change the electronic properties of graphene

Combining an atomically thin graphene and a boron nitride layer at a slightly rotated angle changes their electrical properties. Physicists at the University of Basel have now shown for the first time the combination with a third layer can result in new material properties also in a three-layer sandwich of carbon and boron nitride. This significantly increases the number of potential synthetic materials, report the researchers in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Last year, researchers in the US caused a big stir when they showed that rotating two stacked graphene layers by a “magical” angle of 1.1 degrees turns...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers measure near-perfect performance in low-cost semiconductors

18.03.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Nanocrystal 'factory' could revolutionize quantum dot manufacturing

18.03.2019 | Materials Sciences

Long-distance quantum information exchange -- success at the nanoscale

18.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>