How many moons does Mars have? Since the beginning of the space race in the 20th century, the interest in astronomy has made a steady growth. After moon landing, space agencies have, almost immediately found a new goal – Mars. Even though we had certain knowledge about this planet, recent observations have brought deeper knowledge of Mars and its surroundings. Unfortunately, knowledge about these silent companions is scarce. However, with growing interest in space travel, astronomers came to a conclusion, that natural satellites would be much better base camps than planets because we would have to think of the gravity problem in case of particular planet. Therefore, exploration has begun.
Mars has two moons named Phobos and Deimos. This fact would amaze most people; the size of Mars is approximately half the Earth’s size. These two satellites were discovered in 1877 by the scientist Asaph Hall. After the discovery, names were suggested by other scientist Henry Madan. Phobos and Deimos were sons of Greek god of war Ares (in translation to English – fear and panic). Both satellites are so small that there were many speculations about their existence before they were discovered.
Phobos is larger than Deimos and its diameter is approximately 22,2 km. Phobos is also closer to Mars, with a 6000 km distant orbit. Unfortunately, it is closing in to Mars so eventually, it will brake into small pieces – or it will hit Mars. Its surface is dominated by the crater 10 km in diameter. Unlike our Moon, Phobos doesn’t have this smooth ball-like shape. It is rather lumpy, and if it were of proper color, one would think it was a giant potato. Due to its shape (and believed composition), both Phobos and Deimos are believed to originate from outer space and to be asteroids.
If Phobos is small, then Deimos is tiny, because its diameter is almost half the size of Phobos – around 12 km. It is more distant to Mars than Phobos. Deimos make a circle around Mars in approximately 30 hours, while Phobos makes 3 circles a day. Both moons are orbiting around imaginary Mars’ equator, so the further you are to the caps, the smaller they seem, until they become completely invisible. Due to both satellites’ size, there is no solar eclipse on Mars.
When scientists observed both orbits, they came to this conclusion: unlike Phobos, Deimos will probably share our Moon’s fate, since it is slowly getting further and further from Mars. However, this is very distant future. Until then these two Martian moons will probably serve as space stations for Mars explorations.