Can I ask what is up with the moons today? First we've got Pluto's four little scamps tumbling about like a bunch of circus monkeys. Now, word is that Mars' moon Phobos is falling to pieces. Our Moon better not get any ideas!
Phobos' unfortunate fate is but the latest cosmic upheaval announced today at the annual Meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences. New modelling work indicates that the shallow grooves lining Phobos' surface — once thought to be impact fractures — are actually planetary stretch marks caused by the gravitational tug of Mars. They're the early signs of a structural failure that will eventually (in 30 to 50 million years or so) yank the miserable Martian satellite apart.
"We think that Phobos has already started to fail, and the first sign of this failure is the production of these grooves," said NASA astronomer Terry Hurford.
Worse, astronomers now think the moon's interior is nothing more than a bunch of space rubble, packaged under a 100 metre-thick pile of powdery regolith. So if and when Phobos does crack open, our future Martian descendants can expect a real nasty dust storm punctuated by hot falling chunks of garbage moon. Excited to live on the Red Planet yet?
Top: Phobos, I'm sorry for you. Image Credit: Wikimedia