Why are you always striving for the obvious? Besides discovering your own moon, there are many puzzles in space to solve. Viennese researchers are now facing a surprising discovery.
Something already Phobos Hear? The ancient Greek word “fear” also refers to one of the two moons of the planet. Anthem. Phobos returns to Mars with Little Deimos. New results from the Vienna University of Technology provide important information. A space mission will soon receive rock samples.
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The surface of the Mars satellite Phobos is badly weathered. But what leads to it? Viennese researchers are dealing with this question. The smaller moon was discovered in 1877 by the American astronomer Asaph Hall. Knowing that Mars has two moons probably drove him into “fear” (Phobos) and “terror” (Deimos). In Greek mythology, these are the two horses that pulled the chariot of the war god Ares. Both Mars satellites were first photographed by Viking orbits from a relatively short distance in the 1970s.
Space: There is no air in our sense
Back to the present: Mars satellite Phobos is in a very special case. It is so close to Mars that not only the solar wind but also the bombardment of particles from Mars plays a decisive role here. A research team from the Vienna University of Technology was able to demonstrate this in laboratory experiments. Within a few years, a Japanese space mission was to take rock samples from Phobos and bring them back to Earth.
Of course, there is no word air in space – but rock can “breathe” in outer space if it is constantly bombarded by high-energy particles from the sun, for example.
How did the Mars satellite Phobos come about?
As Paul Szabo, who worked on Friedrich Aumayr’s research group at the Vienna Technical University Institute of Applied Physics, confirmed his thesis, there are many different theories about the origin of the moon on Mars.
“Phobos might initially be thought to be an asteroid and later captured by Mars, but it may have also formed when a larger celestial body collided with Mars.”
When studying such celestial bodies, researchers must take into account that their surfaces have completely changed over billions of years due to the bombardment of cosmic particles. The rock on earth remains untouched because our atmosphere protects the particles. However, science can understand the geology of atmospheric celestial bodies (such as our moon or Phobos) only if it is possible to correctly assess the “separation of space”. The Technical University of Vienna makes an important contribution to this.
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Detailed experiments at the Technical University of Vienna
The TU Wien team spared no effort and conducted many experiments. “We used rock material from Phobos and bombarded it with various charged particles in vacuum chambers,” explains Paul Szabo. “With extremely accurate scales you can measure how much material has been removed and how much what particles are affecting the rock.”
- The two Mars satellites Phobos and Deimos have an irregular shape. With a bit of imagination, the two satellites may resemble potatoes.
- Mars’ moons were discovered by the US astronomer Asaph Hall at the US Naval Observatory in 1877.
- The ancient Greek terms Phobos and Deimos mean “fear” and “terror”. In Greek mythology the two are companions of the Ares battle grid, called Mars in Latin mythology.
- Phobos, the larger of two Mars satellites, measures. 26.8 km × 22.4 km × 18.4 km. Deimos measures 15 km × 12.2 km × 10.4 km.
- At least because of their irregular shape, astronomers hypothesize that the two moons are asteroids from the outer asteroid belt stuck in the orbit of Mars.
- According to some theories, Phobos is actually a pile of rubble: an asteroid made of fragments and held together only by gravity.
Basically Phobos, moon etc. on earth. There are many minerals that occur in celestial bodies and can therefore be used as analog rocks, according to our editorial team. “The raw material for our research was specially provided by our collaboration partners at the University of Bern, who are experts in this field,” says Szabo.
The peculiarities of the moon Phobos were taken into account in the experiments. The distance to the Martian surface is less than 6,000 kilometers – that’s not even two percent of the distance between our moon and earth. Just like our moon, Phobos is in a bound spin around its planet: it always turns the same side towards Mars.
Moon Mars Phobos: Weather Solution
“Due to the extremely short distance between Mars and Phobos, not only particles emitted by the sun play a role, but also particles from Mars,” says Paul Szabo.
Additionally, the Martian atmosphere is mainly composed of carbon dioxide. Larger amounts of oxygen are also found in the outer parts of the atmosphere. If the particles of the solar wind penetrate there with great force, oxygen ions can form, which hits Phobos at high speed, changing the rock there.
Benefits from 2024 space mission research results
“With our measurement methods, we were able to predict erosion much more precisely than before,” says Friedrich Aumayr. “Our results show that the influence of oxygen ions from the Martian atmosphere should in no way be neglected.
Aumayr also emphasizes the importance of distinguishing the two sides of Phobos. According to the researcher, while the solar wind dominates on the side facing Mars, the bombardment of the Martian atmosphere becomes dominant when the sun is protected from Mars.
Real Phobos samples will be available shortly and then evaluated by researchers. In 2024, as part of the Japanese space mission “MMX (Martian Moon eXploration)”, a spaceship is expected to arrive at Phobos and return rock samples to Earth.
You can find the original post here.
Read more about NASA’s Mars mission here.