8 Fascinating Facts About Phobos

Scientists hypothesize that Phobos and Deimos, the two moons of Mars, are composed of rock and ice.

If you’re a space enthusiast, you’re probably familiar with Phobos, but if you’re new to the cosmos, this may be your first time hearing about it.

Let’s delve into this satellite and explore what makes it such an intriguing part of space.

Phobos is one of Mars’s two natural satellites.

Mars has only two natural satellites or moons, and Phobos is the larger of the pair.

It has an irregular shape and measures an average of 13.7 miles (22 km) in diameter.

In contrast, Deimos, the other natural satellite, is only a seventh of Phobos’s size, yet it still spans more than 1.9 miles (3 km) in diameter.

Phobos is the inner moon, while Deimos is the outer moon.

Phobos was discovered in 1877.

Phobos is not a recent discovery, even though scientists are still uncovering new and exciting things in space.

Asaph Hall, an astronomer born in Connecticut, USA, is credited with the discovery of Phobos and Deimos.

Hall was also responsible for several other space-related discoveries, but none were as well-known as the finding of Mars’s moons.

Hall’s wife, Angeline Stickney, encouraged him to search for Mars’s moons when the planet approached Earth in 1877, and he discovered both moons within six days of each other that August.

The moon is named after the Greek god Phobos.

Phobos, the Greek god, personified fear and was the son of Ares and Aphrodite (Mars and Venus, respectively).

The word “Phobos” is related to the modern word “phobia,” which also means fear.

Deimos, Mars’s other moon, is also named after a Greek god meaning “dread.”

The Greek Godbrothers fought alongside their father on the battlefield, with one representing the fear felt during battle and the other representing the desire to flee and the feeling of dread.

The names of the moons of Mars might represent their large size and their proximity to the planet Mars.

Phobos’s composition is not what you’d expect.

It’s typical to believe that moons are simply giant rocks floating around in space or around planets.

However, Phobos’s composition is more intriguing than that.

While a significant portion of both Mars’s moons is carbon-rich rock, that’s not the whole story.

Scientists believe that Phobos and Deimos are made up of both rock and ice.

Recent investigations into Phobos suggest that the outer surface is coated in a one-meter-thick layer of dust.

Phobos’s most massive crater is named “Stickney.”

The most massive crater on Phobos is fittingly named after Asaph Hall’s wife, Angeline Stickney.

The name “Stickney” was given to the largest of the craters on Phobos, named after Chloe Angeline Stickney Hall, the wife of the man who discovered the moons. It took almost 100 years for the name to be officially given by the International Astronomical Union in 1973. Within the Stickney crater, there is a smaller crater named Limtoc, which is only 1.2 miles in diameter compared to Stickney’s 5.6 miles. In total, 17 craters on Phobos have been named after astronomers and fictional characters like Limtoc from “Gulliver’s Travels.”

Phobos orbits at a distance of 5,826 miles from Mars, which is the closest distance between a planet and its satellite in the entire solar system. Although this distance seems far to us, the orbit period of Phobos is only 7.7 hours, and it moves twice as fast as Mars. Interestingly, Phobos gets closer to Mars by 6 feet 7 inches every hundred years. Scientists predict that within 30-50 million years, Phobos could collide with Mars or break up into a planetary ring made up of dust or moonlets. Jupiter, Neptune, and Saturn all have planetary rings, and images of Phobos have been captured by NASA’s rovers.

If you’re interested in learning more about Phobos and its discovery, you can watch footage of the satellites in action or view unique images taken from the surface of Mars.


1. What is Phobos?

Phobos is a moon of Mars, the fourth planet from the sun. It is the larger of Mars’ two moons, with a diameter of about 22 kilometers. Phobos is irregularly shaped and has a heavily cratered surface. It orbits Mars at a distance of only 9,378 kilometers, closer than any other moon in the solar system orbits its planet.

2. How did Phobos get its name?

Phobos was named after the Greek god of fear, Phobos, who was also a son of Ares, the god of war. The name was suggested by astronomer Asaph Hall, who discovered Phobos and its smaller companion moon Deimos in 1877.

3. What is the origin of Phobos?

There are several theories about the origin of Phobos. One theory is that it was formed from debris ejected by a giant impact on Mars. Another theory is that it is a captured asteroid or comet that was pulled into Mars’ orbit. Evidence suggests that Phobos is actually getting closer to Mars over time, which supports the idea that it will eventually be torn apart by tidal forces and form a ring around Mars.

4. What is unusual about Phobos’ orbit?

Phobos’ orbit is unusual in that it is very close to Mars and is also in a retrograde orbit, meaning it moves in the opposite direction of Mars’ rotation. This makes Phobos’ orbit unstable, and it is slowly spiraling closer to Mars. Scientists predict that in about 50 million years, Phobos will either crash into Mars or break apart and form a ring around the planet.

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