Mars To Become A Ringed Planet Made Up Of Dead Moon Phobos

Mar' dying moon, Phobos, could give the planet that extra bit of pizzazz, at least in planetary terms.

Scientists have predicted that Mars may one day become a ringed planet like Saturn, but don't hold your breath as it will take 20 to 40 million years.

The alternative fate of Phobos involves plummeting to its death fully intact, researchers have also said.

If the ring formation does take place, it would begin with Phobos' weakest parts spreading out around the red planet.

The report, published in Nature Geoscience, compared the density and strength of Phobos to a model used to estimate rock strength.

"If you were standing on the surface of Mars, you could grab a lawn chair and watch Phobos shearing out and spreading into a big circle,” said Benjamin Black, a planetary scientist at the University of California, Berkeley.

According to Nature, Black and his colleague also predicted the ring would last anywhere between one million and 100 million years although the break-up would only take a few days to weeks.

Phobos measures around 13 miles across and hovers quite close to Mars, 3,700 miles above the surface.

A month ago, another study confirmed the moon was being ripped apart by gravity. Scientists said the grooves on Phobos' surface were a sign of tidal forces forcing the moon apart.

However, Mars' other moon, Deimos, is too far away to be subjected to the same stresses and is unlikely to break-up anytime soon.

In order to have more clarity about when and how Phobos will break-up, Black suggested sending a spacecraft to Phobos to measure its internal strength.

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