Phobos, the largest — yet at just 16 miles wide still quite tiny — moon of Mars is getting ripped apart by the gravitational pull of its parent planet… and it bears the scars to show it, scientists have determined.
Long parallel grooves that wrap around the surface of Phobos are thought to be stress fractures — surface evidence of the tidal forces that will one day cause the moon to break apart entirely. This fate is not surprising to scientists, but that we’re seeing it in action is fascinating.
“We think that Phobos has already started to fail, and the first sign of this failure is the production of these grooves,” said Terry Hurford of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Have you gone to see The Martian yet? (And if you haven’t, my review of it may help speed you on your way.) Did you love it? Just kidding — of course you did. But did you read the book first? If you did, you may have noticed that a lot of Mark Watney’s hands-on science work didn’t make it into the final cut of the film. Which I can understand, because some people actually don’t want to sit in a theater for four hours watching science projects on the big screen. But a few of these scenes were still shot, the above being one of them shared on Twitter today by The Martian author Andy Weir. Check it out — it’s about an experiment called ChemCam, which is actually a real thing being used on Mars right now by the Curiosity rover!
(This also leads me to believe there will be an extended director’s cut of the film that will some day get released that includes all of the cut scenes in place, especially this one — it is Ridley Scott, after all!)
See more deleted scenes from The Martian on the Ares: live YouTube channel.
If you’re a space fan and you’ve decided to hold off seeing The Martian on opening weekend until you know what to expect, I totally understand — I very rarely see films on opening weekends myself (I have a thing about overcrowded theaters, but that’s another story.) And I also hate to be sorely disappointed in films, which is all too often the case when I’m going in with particularly high expectations. This of course was exactly what I had with The Martian, having read and enjoyed Andy Weir’s book shortly after it was published and subsequently being thrilled not even a year later to hear that one of my favorite directors (Sir Ridley Scott) would be making the movie version of the novel. But, being the big ol’ space geek that I am I felt I would have been amiss to not see the film ASAP, and so I went this past Saturday afternoon. Here’s what I thought of it.
(Spoiler: just writing this gives me a big smile, so you already kinda know how I feel!)
So on the same week that the highly-anticipated film “The Martian” opens in U.S. theaters (you are going to go see it, I assume) NASA revealed the latest discovery regarding the Red Planet: there is water on the surface there, salty rivulets that periodically run down steep slopes in Hale Crater and stain its sands with dark streaks.
It might not be something that Mark Watney would want to guzzle a glassful of, but it is a major finding for planetary scientists!
I’m in a debunking mood today, probably brought on by the seasonal “double Moon hoax” that raises its oh-so-wrong head every August. (Read more on that nonsense here.) So here’s one more thing to say “NO” to: giant alien cave crabs on Mars.
Apparently there’d been some buzz recently in the “space woo” circles online over an image acquired by NASA’s Curiosity rover showing an exposed rock outcrop on Mars. In the image, tucked into a corner between a couple of larger rocks, is an oddly-shaped… thing… that some of the more “open-minded” (sarcasm intended) viewers have claimed is an alien organism, not unlike some that have made appearances in various sci-fi films over the years.
I’ve included the original Mastcam image above with the object in question outlined and “enhanced” on the left. Is this indisputable evidence of tentacled cave dwellers on the Red Planet? Hardly.
No, no, no…a thousand times NO: Mars will not become a “second Moon” in the sky on August 27. It won’t this year, it didn’t last year, and it didn’t in the past dozen years since this silly yet strangely perennial cyber-legend (yes I just used the prefix “cyber”) first started circulating on teh interwebz. I don’t know why it keeps rising from the e-dead every year, some years more omnipresently than others, but the bottom line is it simply won’t happen. Not this time, not ever… the Solar System just doesn’t work that way. (And good thing too!)