Phobos’ Low Bulk Density: Evidence Against a Capture Origin?

Monday, 15 December 2014
Cristina Dalle Ore1, Maurizio Pajola2, Monica Lazzarin3, Ted L Roush4, Dale P Cruikshank4, Yvonne J Pendleton4, Cristian Carli5, Ivano Bertini2, Sara Magrin2, Fiorangela La Forgia3 and Cesare Barbieri3, (1)SETI Institute Mountain View, Mountain View, CA, United States, (2)CISAS - Center for Studies and Activities for Space, University of Padova, Padova, Italy, (3)University of Padova, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Padova, Italy, (4)NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States, (5)IAPS-INAF, Roma, Italy
Phobos’ low density of 1.876 ± 0.02 g/cm3 (Andert et al., 2010, Witasse et al., 2013, Paetzold et al., 2013) supports its formation from a disk of debris (Peale 2007). The disk would either be a remnant of the formation of Mars (Safronov et al., 1986) or the result of a collision between Mars and a large body (Craddock 1994, 2011; Singer 2007). Within this scenario a large interior porosity would be responsible for the low density of the re-accreted material forming Phobos. Thermal emission spectra of Phobos suggest an ultramafic composition with the presence of phyllosilicates and feldspathoids in some regions (Giuranna et al., 2011), consistent with Phobos’ in situ formation (Giuranna et al., 2011).

However, the 0.3-4.0 μm surface spectra taken from multiple areas of the body in more than 43 years of observations (Duxbury et al., 2013), show physical characteristics similar to low-albedo asteroids such as C-type (Masursky et al., 1972, Pang et al., 1980) or D-type (Murchie 1999, Rivkin et al., 2002, Lynch et al., 2007, Pajola et al., 2012). They argue in favor of an asteroidal capture scenario that could be explained by binary asteroid dissociation (Landis 2009) or by collisional capture in the Martian orbital region (Pajola et al., 2012).

Finally recent work by Schmedemann et al., (2014) indicates Phobos’ surface to be ~ 4.3 – 3.7 Ga, dating back to a period where there was an intensification in the number of impactors in the inner Solar System (Gomes et al., 2005), and supporting both the in-situ and the capture scenario.

Pajola et al. (2013) match the surface reflectance of Phobos from 0.4 to 4.0 μm with a mineralogical model composed of a mixture of Tagish Lake meteorite (TL) and Pyroxene Glass (PM80). Based on the published model, we adopted the weighted TL and PM80 densities to investigate if the low bulk density of Phobos could conform with these components reconciling both inner properties and surface spectra. While the TL density is available from measurements by Hildebrand et al. (2006), that of PM80 (Jager et al., 1994) has not been measured. In its stead, we have adopted density values of different pyroxene glasses from the literature (Karamanov and Pelino, 1999, and Smithsonian Physical Tables 1921) along with the density of mafic-rich glasses with VNIR spectra similar to PM80. We present our results.