Indian scientist says Phobos will turn into a ring around Mars
15/05/2008 20:07 MOSCOW, May 15 (RIA Novosti) - Phobos, a satellite of Mars, will become a ring around the Red Planet in a few million years, an Indian scientist has calculated.
Bijay Kumar Sharma, an assistant professor at the National Institute of Technology in Bihar, said in a recent paper that contrary to previous expectations, Phobos will not fall into the surface of Mars in 50 million years but will be torn apart by the tidal forces of the planet in about 7 million years.
In his paper entitled "Theoretical formulation of the Phobos, moon of Mars, rate of altitudinal loss," Sharma said that the Moon is moving away from the Earth at a rate of 3.7 cm a year, while Phobos is moving closer to its host at a rate of 18.3 cm a year.
When the distance is sufficiently short, tides are caused by the host's gravitation due to its varying influence on the satellite's close and remote parts.
When Phobos nears the so-called Roche limit, which will be at an altitude of 3,620 km above Mars's surface, the satellite will be destroyed, forming a ring similar to the rings of Saturn.
The scientist suggested that an automated station be dispatched toward Phobos, which would make it possible to measure the speed of the satellite's approach toward Mars and identify the date of the future event more exactly.
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