Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mars Express Close Encounter With Phobos

Hot on the heels of the Enterprise Mission’s publication of a new article addressing the probable artificial origin of asteroid 2867 Steins, the European Space Agency has released startling new images of Phobos, one of Mars’ two “moons.” While the characterization of Phobos as “moon” at all (it’s obviously simply an asteroid somehow captured or held by Mars’ gravitational field) is problematic, it’s not nearly as problematic as characterizing it as a natural object. Phobos is generally considered similar to the carbonaceous C-Class asteroids because of its surface albedo characteristics, but a new analysis of Phobos’ composition revealed something of a surprise; Phobos is basically hollow.

By simply measuring the gravitational influence of Phobos on the Mars Express spacecraft itself (which is a function of Phobos’ shape and density), ESA was able to determine that Phobos is incredibly light, about 1 billionth the mass of Earth, and has a much lower density (1.85 grams per cubic centimeter) than Martian surface rocks (.7-3.3 grams per cubic centimeter). Theoretically, this places Phobos more correctly in the D-Class category of asteroids, which are believed to be highly fractured and cavernous. One explanation for this is that Phobos (and perhaps its sister moon, Deimos) might be a “rubble pile,” essentially a bunch of big chunks that crashed into each other that are held together by gravity. According to this idea, Phobos was formed from material somehow ejected from Mars itself eons ago that somehow assembled themselves into a coherent body. However, there is no suitable explanation for how such a “rubble pile” could manage to find itself in a near perfect equatorial orbit around Mars, a condition that is highly unlikely to have occurred just by chance, to say the least. Given that its composition and density is so different from Mars’ own, it seems more likely that Phobos came from somewhere else, perhaps somewhere in the nearby asteroid field that lies between Mars and Jupiter. The only issue that remains is the question of whether this placement is a natural condition – again, highly unlikely – or whether it was placed there in the distant past by some unseen and unknown force.

Fortunately, Mars Express carries an on board radar called MARSIS which took measurements of the moon’s interior. That data should probably settle the issue of whether Phobos is a natural object or not, or at least whether it has been modified internally by an artificial force of some kind. Sadly, the ESA article does not say when the MARSIS data might be released.

There is however one last scenario under which Phobos might turn out to be a natural object, albeit one that resides in an impossibly perfect equatorial orbit. According to Dr. Tom van Flandern’s exploded planet hypothesis, all the remnant chunks of an exploded planet (like his theorized Planet V in the orbit between Mars and Jupiter) would be expected to have orbiting companions for at least a significant portion of their lifetimes. True to form, Phobos in close up shows the tell tale-signs of just such a post explosion condition; it is criss-crossed with dozens of race track signatures which indicate orbiting companions which have spiraled into the mother body (Phobos). As van Flandern has pointed out, these types of race track patterns are a sure sign of orbiting companions.

So the question at hand now is just what is Phobos? A remnant of the protoplanetary disk that formed the Solar System (not likely)? A captured Jupiter Trojan that somehow drifted into a perfectly equatorial orbit over Mars (even less likely)? Or, is it neither of those, but instead a shattered survivor of the cataclysm that devastated Mars, towed into this bizarrely non-random orbit by the survivors of the Martian Apocalypse and then mined by them, or simply drilled out to make an orbiting, artificial habitat? The MARSIS data should tell us that, if only we get the real stuff. Time will tell if we do.


  1. Well, Steins - assuming it is artificial – appears to be more of a life boat, designed to reflect all manner of EM waves in a way that attracts attention. Phobos, assuming it too is artificial or at least modified, seems more like a way station or a temporary habitat for survivors of the Martian cataclysm. Then again, it could have been mined for its raw materials at some point. Maybe it was once full of ununpentium or something.

  2. Actually, I'm guessing it was neutronium, or solarminite.

    Strange that I have hollowed-out asteroids as superweapons in my novel...



  3. "Just finished reading all the Steins stuff at TEM. It is really very interesting that this year, there was a 'diamond' crop formation over in England. It looked exactly like the diamond diagrams used in the 'Diamond in the Sky' Steins article at TEM."

    I noticed that as well and posted it over on Keith Laney's site.

    However the thing that got me with it was that it was made exactly 33 days before the flyby.

  4. Yes, that crop formation is very interesting. It came back vividly to mind when I was reading the TEM article for two reasons. First, because it's a one-to-one match for a faceting diagram, and second, because I remembered that I felt very frustrated that apparently no one who was writing about the formation could figure out that it was a diagram of a faceted diamond. Everybody kept looking at it upside-down and saying stuff like 'well, maybe it's a mountain...'

    I've had my own interesting personal experiences with crop formations in the past, and I do know that nothing about them is random or 'just coincidental'. In the Yatesbury figure, all the radiating rays around the diamond are solid except for that one to the left of the girdle (when looking at the diamond in the formation culet-down), and as I was reading the Steins article last night, I was stunned when the proverbial light went on. My puzzlement as to why the circlemakers would draw a faceted diamond with a marker pointing at the girdle of said diamond is puzzlement no longer.

    What I now wonder is, do all the angles in the crop formation map the surface stuff on Steins one-to-one?



  5. Yeah it's amazing how the equipment always seems to fail right when we get to the good stuff, isn't it?

    But that's just a coincidence.

  6. Of course the failures r bogus....

    I only hope that at least some parts of the data coming from Chandrayaan-1 mission will be successfully.
    But really....personally I don't expect a different behavior from them.... I think that ONLY when some independents r going to invest in some space science will gonna see some REAL data and not so many "data failure" ..."error reading data"..."system shutdown unexpectedly" ...."critical error" ....and the list can continue....

    Only then the truth will be revealed!

  7. I can't help but think of some other places in our local neighborhood that we don't even know about yet. It makes one ponder what secrets Venus may hold. Once the private sector starts putting up their own probes equipped with HD camers, (like KAGUYA) the jig is up, and our minds will be blown.

    It also makes me wonder just what the Japanese have found in the past year with KAGUYA, and I'll bet the real footage doesn't look like a better version of "Google Moon".

  8. Re:
    Additionally, if random chance
    was truly operating here, I
    would expect to see some
    meaningful data every now
    and again.

    Amen to that.

    As an engineer, I am appalled at the ever
    so lackluster performance of our space
    probes at critical moments.

    One can only surmize tampering for some
    hidden purpose.

    I would expect far better performance even
    from "off the shelf" hardware, leave alone
    the sort of "space rated" mil-spec hardware
    that supposedly is being used.

    Maybe this is someone's idea of a "budget

    "...we need more money for the space
    program...just look what we have to
    put up with...whine-whine-whine..."

    Yeah...right...absolutely CLOCKWORK failures
    occuring invariably at critical moments....

    Do tell....

    So, on top of having our noses rubbed in
    Brookings, we get a shakedown to boot....

    That's our Uncle Sam, alright....


    Hathor -- toes tapping, fingers drumming...
    never a good sign....


    P.S.: Uh-oh...I see Old Mother Fierce Face
    rising up....


  9. I tell you, I am ready to start screaming with laughter right about now-- Linda Moulton Howe has an article on her website about all this bright blue stuff that's been found all over the surface of Mercury. The photo posted with the article shows some of the blue areas and the picture has a legend that explains that infrared enhancements to the pic have been made so that the mysterious blue substance may be clearly seen.

    So let me get this straight-- Mercury gets infrared color enhancement and clear imaging, while Mars and Steins get the Mr. Magoo myopic fuzz-and-fade treatment over... and over... and over...

    After I finish rolling around on the floor in hysterics, I will just point out that the bottom line is this: if clear, nicely enhanced pix of Mercury are possible (so we can all see the mysterious and fascinating blue stuff), the same is then true for Mars, and it is about time we got some properly enhanced, in-focus pictures of the Red Planet(so we can all see the mysterious and fascinating ruins and fossils).

    And now I will mention the Moon-- which is (unlike Mars and Mercury) right in our own cosmic backyard, and yet we still have no high resolution, properly enhanced pix of the far side of good old Luna. As a photographic target, the Moon is what you would call the complete and utter mother of all slam-dunks, and yet libraries everywhere are still waiting for astronomy books with detailed maps of the far side of the Moon...

    Yet the blue splotches on Mercury are coming in 20-20 thanks to a spot of infrared finessing.

    BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!! (And now I will go rest my ribs, which have been tickled enough for a good six months!)



  10. "And now I will mention the Moon-- which is (unlike Mars and Mercury) right in our own cosmic backyard, and yet we still have no high resolution, properly enhanced pix of the far side of good old Luna. As a photographic target, the Moon is what you would call the complete and utter mother of all slam-dunks, and yet libraries everywhere are still waiting for astronomy books with detailed maps of the far side of the Moon...

    You got that right, we are going to Mars to photograph the crap out of it and the moon lies ignored, we are going to Mercury to take really nice photos of that, the moon is still ignored. Its one thing in the case of Mars to mabe photograph it instead of the moon, but Mercury's surface is broadly similiar to the moon's surface, with vallies, crators etc. yet not really any nice photos are taken.

    But anyway, wasnt there a military plan or something to take hi-res photos of the entire moon? After a quick net search I wasnt able to find much mention about it, yet I know I saw it somewhere.

    All these technical failures is definitly appalling, your right, if this was a true company, the engineers working there would be fired in spectacular fashion for having their heads to far up.......

    Lets see, how many times has this stuff gone wrong right at the exact moment in just the last one to 2 years? and really, after all this software "malfunction" someone else should have been hired to write their code because obviously these people are in some way inept.
    With the way these craft operate, it should be similiar to a power plant, those things can run days on end without human intervention and be fine and they are a hell of alot more complicated, imagine if we had nuclear powerplants failing at the rate of failure for Nasa probes, nucelar power wouldnt be around for very long in that case...

    PS. @ marsandro, did you ever look into that pre einstein type paper?

  11. Hmmm..."blue stuff" on the
    surface of Mercury....

    That suggests only two things:

    (1) water (which would seem a bit unlikely at
    such temeratures, that close to the sun),


    (2) pure silicon, a definite possibility, as that
    is what you get in a silicon furnace when you
    pull crystals to make silicon chips.

    Now, if only we could find a way to "dip
    and wash" the entire planet of Mercury
    after etching in some circuit patterns,
    we'd have the largest microchip in this
    sector of the Cosmos.

    I wonder how long it would take Bill Gates
    to write a new operating system to bog it
    down, and tie up the memory?


    Hathor -- Enjoying the Blue Revolution


  12. @ marsandro

    Yeah, my guess is the same. The blue colors from Mercury r in facts pure silicon.

    But speaking of water, what I don't understand, and hope that you or anyone else please explain to me, how come NASA expect some info from Chandrayaan-1 mission regarding some water that suppose to be found on some craters on the Moon? Frozen water...but still

    It's possible to be water on the Moon? Why?

  13. Hi sphynx,

    Water on the Moon might have
    originated from a comet strike
    (granted the "snowball" version
    of comet formation and structure),
    or it could have been "tankered" there
    by aliens, just to mess with our minds.

    Who knows....

    Since water is, after all, H2O, maybe there
    was some sort of event in the distant past
    involving these elements coming together on
    or near the Moon (wherever it was at the
    time, as there is a growing consensus that
    the Moon is not from around here at all).

    Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine,
    or anyone else's, come to that.


    Hathor -- Giving her best impression of a lunar Dorothy Hamill


  14. Hi tarius,

    I've spent some time in the VA
    hospital here recently. Cardiac
    trouble (had to have stints put in)
    and problems with diabetes (now I'm
    on insulin). Even so, my apologies for
    the delay.

    I haven't checked on the situation at the
    Magale Library (to see if it is once again
    safe to enter the stacks), but I'll check
    on it this week.

    I'll make a special effort to get that paper
    citation for you.

    Any good index of the works of Charles F.
    Brush ought to list the papers. Nonetheless,
    I'll pull that up for you.

    Brush also is listed in Who's Who of American
    Men of Science. You should find this in the
    reference section of any good college library.

    Papers by Brush were published in the
    Proceedings of the American Philosophical
    Society, Journal of the Franklin Institute,
    and London, Edinburgh and Dublin.

    Brush Founded the Brush Electric Company and
    the Linde Air Products Company. Brush had
    over fifty patents worldwide.


    Hathor -- Your Reference Librarian


  15. Any time, sphinx.

    If there's one thing I know
    how to do, it's speculate.


    Hathor -- The Hot Chick of Speculation


  16. "Hi tarius,

    Sad news: I just returned from the
    Magale Library, where it seems they
    have purged older documents from their
    shelves. Almost their entire 19th century
    collection has been eliminated to make room
    for newer materials."

    They purged older materials? My first reaction is you got to be kidding me. My second is, isnt that sort of thing illegal.

    My third is, shouldnt they have scanned all that stuff into microfilm or otherwise put it into storage somewhere? where normal people can access it, I am sure they could create some paperwork or something as they like to do taht sort of thing.

    Anyway, that really sucks, well hopefully something will be found.

    "Any good index of the works of Charles F.
    Brush ought to list the papers."

    Well, at least not online from what I have seen, it seems everything I have found, focuses completely on his more famous works.

    Take it easy though, a heart attack or anything similiar to that would not be a good thing for anyone.

  17. A cursory review of available
    science journals at Centenary
    College, Texas A&M University,
    Case Western Reserve University,
    and even the Library of Congress
    of the United States indicates:

    If you want to see something from, say, the
    Proceedings of the American Philosophical
    Society from between about 1849 to 1879,
    or from about 1880 to 1908, ...

    Check your local landfill.

    Same thing for Science, Science Review,
    Nature, and several other important journals
    of the past and present.

    What is everyone doing? Have they all gone

    Is shelf space really at such a premium?!


    Hathor -- Fundraising for shelf space


    P.S.: You may not believe this, but one
    Texas A&M alumnus tells me that some of
    the old journals from their library were
    used as kindling in the Spirit Day bonfire
    several years ago.

    Great...classics of science literature are now
    lighting the way for college football.

    Are they all insane...?!?


  18. I'm guessing you're already familiar with the Sagan-Shklovsky assertions that Phobos might be artificial, or at least hollow.

  19. Yeah I remember that. Wonder where Carl gotg his ideas from...

  20. Hi T'Zairis,

    I am terribly sorry to hear
    about what happened to your

    May Sekhmet rip them a new one....

    I agree, and understand, about the crumbling
    state of affairs of ancient print.

    Even as a young undergraduate student, I
    was encountering such volumes that had to
    be handled with extreme care, and that was
    nearly forty years ago.

    I understand that these volumes are indeed
    being scanned onto CDs, including by the
    original publishers, and that they will
    continue to be available for public access.

    What irks me at the moment, is that the
    CD-based files cannot be accessed outside
    those institutions where these things are
    to be had.

    For example, even the Library of Congress
    issues for several old science journals cannot
    be located even through the electronic card
    catalog system, unless you are physically
    *at* the Library of Congress. And ditto for
    Texas A&M, Centenary, and Case Western Reserve.

    I mean, you can't even look up the listings


    Perhaps our technology isn't quite as great
    as we like to think...or, if nothing else,
    we need to get on our producers of this
    technology to get them to ramp it up.

    Yo? Bill Gates? Anybody home????


    Hathor -- Making the IT shopping list


    P.S.: Well, I'm still bugged by the fact that
    LSUS tossed a bunch of late-vintage works
    into a dumpster *without* scanning them,
    plus the TAMU bonfire using old volumes for
    kindling was just...too much.

    What nerve!



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