Science and Exploration

The Formation Of The Martian Moons

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
September 9, 2019
Filed under ,
The Formation Of The Martian Moons
Sketch of the giant impact scenario leading to the formation of Phobos and Deimos (from Craddock, 2011).

Almost all the planets of our solar system have moons. Each planetary system has however unique characteristics.

The Martian system has not one single big moon like the Earth, not tens of moons of various sizes like for the giant planets, but two small moons: Phobos and Deimos.

How did form such a system? This question is still being investigated on the basis of the Earth-based and space-borne observations of the Martian moons and of the more modern theories proposed to account for the formation of other moon systems. The most recent scenario of formation of the Martian moons relies on a giant impact occurring at early Mars history and having also formed the so-called hemispheric crustal dichotomy. This scenario accounts for the current orbits of both moons unlike the scenario of capture of small size asteroids.

It also predicts a composition of disk material as a mixture of Mars and impactor materials that is in agreement with remote sensing observations of both moon surfaces, which suggests a composition different from Mars. The composition of the Martian moons is however unclear, given the ambiguity on the interpretation of the remote sensing observations.

The study of the formation of the Martian moon system has improved our understanding of moon formation of terrestrial planets: The giant collision scenario can have various outcomes and not only a big moon as for the Earth. This scenario finds a natural place in our current vision of the early solar system when conditions were favorable for giant collisions to occur.

The next step in exploration of Martian moon is a sample return mission to test the giant collision scenario for their origin, and to provide tests of models of early solar system dynamics since Mars may retain material exchanged between the inner and outer solar system.

Pascal Rosenblatt, Ryuki Hyodo, Francesco C. Pignatale, Antony Trinh, Sébastien Charnoz, Kevin M. Dunseath, Mariko Terao-Dunseath, Hidenori Genda
(Submitted on 9 Sep 2019)

Comments: 30 pages, 8 figures, 2 tables. Accepted for publication in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Planetary Science
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1909.03996 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1909.03996v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Ryuki Hyodo
[v1] Mon, 9 Sep 2019 17:16:05 UTC (4,371 KB)

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