Rings, similar to those around Saturn, are expected as Phobos breaks apart from Mars' gravitational pull.
Scientists discovered earlier this month that Phobos, one of the two moons that revolve around Mars, is likely dying. Mars’ gravitational pull is causing Phobos to stretch. The moon will likely cease to exists within 20 million years, falling victim to the gravitational push and pull.
According to The Washington Post, the destruction of Phobos could lead to Mars developing rings, similar to those found around Saturn. Research, published Monday in Nature Geoscience, lead by Benjamin Black and Tushar Mittal of The University of California at Berkeley, suggests that Phobos can form rings around Mars that could last anywhere from 1 million to 100 million years. The rings are expected to form quickly, as the moon begins to crumble.
Saturn’s rings were likely created by frequent collisions of the planet’s many moons. The remains, combined with space dust, helped to assemble the rings. Mars’ rings will likely be smaller, as there is only one moon-worth of material. However, the closeness of the rings to the planet will likely make the rings just as dense as those found around Saturn.
A ring added around Mars will be the next chapter in the planet’s known evolution. Considered a “dead planet,” Mars was once warm and wet, but after the atmosphere was stripped away by the sun, the planet became cold and similar to a wasteland.
Researchers believe that the death of a moon leading to the creation of rings was a more common occurrence in the early days of our solar system. Phobos is thought to be one of the last remaining moons, destined to be broken apart by its planet. Future observations may give further insight on how moons help influence the shaping of planets.