On Wednesday, you might just witness an extraordinary event! The moon will occult Mars for several minutes, temporarily hiding it behind itself and appearing behind its surface.
As an event of such significance, an occultation of the Moon should only happen once every lifetime. You won’t need a telescope for viewing, just a clear night sky!
The moon is one of the most recognisable objects in our solar system and has long been a topic of scientific inquiry and mythology. As one of five natural satellites of our system, and closest to Earth of all the planets, its appeal to scientific study and contemplation remains timeless.
The surface of the Moon is covered by regolith – a fine mix of dust, broken rock and material – as well as a thin atmosphere consisting of neon, helium and hydrogen gases which bubble off its surface when micrometeorites interact with solar radiation, eventually dissipating over time and dulling its bright rays.
Most of the moon’s surface was composed of molten rock ejected when an impactor crashed into it, with many volatile elements being released into space and eventually converging to form a thin layer which eventually formed its crust.
However, this was not the end of the moon’s geological history; residual heat from an impact managed to melt rock deep within its core and fuel volcanic eruptions on its surface – leaving behind an opaque dark rock known as basalt on its surface.
At its birth, the moon was an extremely dynamic place. Volcanoes erupted for millennia after one impact occurred, producing huge amounts of heat and gas that persisted for millions of years afterward.
As it travelled through its orbit, the moon continued to expand in size as its size increased with each pass around Earth. Over time however, its orbit began moving farther from us until eventually it started drifting further from us as its rotation became slower as its path passed ours.
It took approximately 27.3 Earth days for the Moon to complete one full orbit around Earth, during which its spin slowed to roughly half the speed of Earth’s rotational rate, an effect known as “synchronous rotation,” caused by the interplay of tidal forces between both worlds.
Asynchronous rotation means that one side of the Moon always faces Earth as it travels around its orbit, much as when sun, Earth, and moon align during lunar eclipses – it is no coincidence!
The Red Planet
Mars, located fourth in distance to the Sun and seventh in size, has long fascinated scientists. With its fiery red color and two strange moons, it has inspired numerous theories and mysteries; moreover it has also become the target of numerous space missions with hopes that astronauts might one day land there themselves.
Mars’ surface is covered in iron oxide dust, giving the planet its distinct rusty red hue. It is widely known for its towering mountains and canyons as well as polar ice caps that remain permanently frozen year-round.
Mars experiences temperatures so cold that carbon dioxide in its atmosphere condenses directly into snow or frost, and marsquakes, similar to earthquakes but occurring on Mars, occur regularly, disrupting landscapes and shaking up the entire planet.
Scientists have detected signs of water on Mars’ surface in the past. Unfortunately, due to its cold and thin atmosphere, liquid water cannot survive for extended periods on its surface.
There was once, millions of years ago, when there could have been liquid water on Mars. This was possible as its axis of rotation periodically changed to provide temporary warming periods that enabled water to flow across its surface.
Deimos and Phobos, two small moons that orbit close to Mercury. Deimos has an approximate radius of seven miles while Phobos measures 14 miles in circumference.
Over time, smaller moons have gradually approached and receded from Mars, as their orbits drift closer or further from it. Their movements are affected by its gravity which gradually deforms them rather than rising or falling like larger moons do.
According to recent studies, asteroids will lose height over time and eventually either collide into our planet or disintegrate to form rings around it – either within 50 million years or before.
Yet Mars remains full of mysteries – such as whether or not there is life there – which makes its exploration all the more compelling. And should life exist there, the possibilities could be limitless.
The Two Moons
Mars has long been the subject of fascination among planetary scientists, drawing visitors with ever more sophisticated robotic explorers to its surface. But two moons orbiting it are among the most mysterious natural satellites of our solar system.
Phobos is about 17 miles across (22 kilometers), while Deimos measures 9 miles long (13 km). Both moons consist of rocks that resemble C-type asteroids or carbonaceous chondrite meteorites.
Deimos and Phobos both contain numerous craters, but Deimos stands out with its large Stickney Crater and network of linear grooves that span thousands of miles – thought to have formed when an explosion from one large crater fractured its surface and fractured the lunar crust.
Scientists theorize that Phobos and Deimos may have their craters created by impacts with asteroids, yet no definitive answer can be given as to why these oddly shaped moons exist in the first place.
One possibility for their orbits could be asteroids captured by Mars’ gravity; this would explain their unusual orbital paths; captured asteroids tend to orbit irregularly and more inclinedly than planets do.
One theory suggests that Mars’ two moons may have formed when an enormous asteroid collided with it millions of years ago or even before planet formation occurred.
This could explain the formation of craters on Earth’s surface as well as why debris rings exist today; some astronomers hypothesize that an impact triggered it in order to form such large balls of dust and rock which contained early water sources within our solar system.
At any rate, this hypothesis doesn’t prove convincing: A team of researchers recently suggested that these moons could have been broken off from an ancestral one through fracture processes.
Although unlikely, it does make sense for how these moons may have come into being. Breaking them apart would require considerable energy expenditure; yet no evidence exists to demonstrate this happening. Furthermore, this argues for more complex origins for moon formation than had previously been suspected.
Mars’ surface consists of rock and soil covered with dusty layers. Terraforming its planet, once home to liquid water for over one billion years, is the goal. To do this, many initiatives must start somewhere on Mars’ reddish-brown carbon rich atmosphere must be altered; with some starting with its equator or some planet’s polar regions as points of focus for development.
Though challenging, Mars can still provide us with an idyllic home for humanity to inhabit in our golden age. Space agencies have several initiatives such as the Mars Rover and Red Planet Explorers Program in place to keep this process moving along.