“Mars Might Already Be Building Rings from Its Moons”

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The Story

“Mars Might Already Be Building Rings from Its Moons”
by Rebecca Boyle
New Scientist, February 17, 2017

The Pitch

Hi Lisa,

[Opening redacted]

Mars already has a ring made from pulverized Phobos

Mars’ largest captured-asteroid moon, Phobos, will eventually be shredded into bits that will swirl into a ring system, much like Saturn’s. But the red planet already has a fine belt of moon dust surrounding it, according to a new study by scientists in India. This is in Icarus, just posted: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0019103516303311

Observations from MAVEN show a cloud of dust at high altitudes surrounding Mars, and scientists are baffled about how it got there. Previous research suggested it could come from interplanetary space, but large particles — which MAVEN spotted along with small ones — would have been blown away by the solar wind. This new paper demonstrates that the dust is coming from Phobos and Deimos, and occasionally from Mars itself, as the rocky bodies are bombarded by micrometeoroids. “The secondary dust ejecta due to interplanetary dust flux on the Phobos/Deimos can cause formation of a dust ring/torus,” the authors say. The average mass loss from the Phobos and Deimos is estimated to be 148 g/s and 35 g/s, respectively.

To figure this out in more detail, a proposed Mars Orbit Dust Experiment (MODEX) could be installed on a future Mars orbiter.

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