Mars' Moons - Phobos and Deimos
Phobos and Deimos were discovered in 1877 by the American astronomer Asaph Hall. Their names were suggested by the English science teacher Henry Madan and chosen by Asaph Hall. In Greek mythology, Phobos is the god of fear and panic and Deimos is the god of terror and dread. They are the twin sons of Ares and Aphrodite. Ares and Aphrodite are the Greek equivalents of Mars and Venus, so Phobos and Deimos are their children.
Phobos is the larger of the two moons but it is still very small, having a diameter of about 23 kilometres (14 miles). It looks a lot like a baked potato. Unfortunately
its insides aren't very appetising and it is thought that Phobos is actually a ball of rubble loosely held together by
magic, sorry, gravity. Phobos has the closest orbit to its planet of any moon in the solar system.
It is situated about 9,400 kilometres (5,800 miles) from Mars. Each year, it gets 2 centimetres
closer to Mars and it's thought that in about 40 million years, it will be torn apart by Mars' gravity. Its remnants may go onto form a ring around Mars while other
parts will fall to the planet's
Much further out is Deimos, Phobos' smaller twin. Deimos is only 12 kilometres wide (8 miles). While Phobos has quite a lot craters on its surface, Deimos appears to have very few. This is largely because most have been filled by debris and dust. Only two of the craters on Deimos have names. One is called Swift and one is called Voltaire. Swift and Voltaire were writers who separately wrote about Mars having two moons. They did this over 100 years before they were actually discovered! Deimos is getting further away from Mars each year and could possibly, sometime in the very very distant future, escape Mars' gravity and be free to wander off elsewhere into the solar system.
If your a fan of stats, here's a tiny table of statistical stuff about Phobos and Deimos. If you want to find out more about either of them, click on their names.
|Name of Moon||Diameter||Orbital Distance||Length of Orbit||Discovered||Discoverer|
(27 x 22 x 18 km)
14 miles (17 x 14 x 11 miles)
|7 hours, 39 mins||1877||Asaph Hall||Deimos||
(15 x 12.2 x 11 km)
8 miles (9 x 7.5 x 7 miles)
|30 hours||1877||Asaph Hall|