A new study has provided compelling evidence supporting the idea that the unusual grooves that are found on the martian moon Phobos may have originally been creating after rolling stones broke free from an asteroid during impact.
According to Phys.org, the new research on Phobos utilizes computer models to try and understand how stray debris striking Stickney crater would react. These models illustrate that boulders of different sizes, colliding upon impact with the asteroid that would form the crater, could very easily have created the strange grooves seen today on this moon of Mars.
Ken Ramsley, who is a planetary science researcher at Brown University and who led the new study on the grooves found on Phobos, explained that these patterns are a unique and focal feature of the martian moon and have been a subject of much debate over many decades.
“These grooves are a distinctive feature of Phobos, and how they formed has been debated by planetary scientists for 40 years. We think this study is another step toward zeroing in on an explanation.”
The first time that these grooves were officially spotted was during the 1970s when NASA was busy conducting their Mariner and Viking missions. As time marched on, theories abounded over just how these grooves first ended up on Phobos.
While some scientists have speculated that objects impacting Mars may have splintered off and struck the moon, others have suggested that the martian moon is slowly being destroyed as the gravity of Mars actively tears it apart, with the grooves demonstrating how fractured it has become over time.
However, other scientists have suggested that there must surely be a link between the Stickney crater and the grooves found on this moon of Mars. In fact, during the previous NASA missions in the 1970s, planetary scientists Jim Head and Lionel Wilson suggested that ejecta, which includes rolling, sliding, or even bouncing boulders, may well be the likely culprit behind the moon’s special grooves. And it is Head himself who also co-authored the new research on how rolling stones may have caused these grooves.
To create the computer models of Phobos, Ramsley explained that it was actually quite a simple experiment in reality.
“The model is really just an experiment we run on a laptop. We put all the basic ingredients in, then we press the button and we see what happens.”
These models demonstrated that the boulders, or rolling stones, set themselves along parallel paths, which is very much in keeping with the parallel paths of grooves that can be spotted on Phobos today, according to Ramsley.
“We think this makes a pretty strong case that it was this rolling boulder model accounts for most if not all the grooves on Phobos.”
The new study which illustrates how rolling stones may have caused the grooves found on the Martian moon Phobos has been published in Planetary and Space Science.