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Mars Could One Day Have a Ring Like Saturn

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Earlier in the month, we wrote about how the structural failure of Mars’ innermost moon, Phobos, may lead to its eventual destruction. Now research published in Nature Geoscience is suggesting that when Mars loses its largest moon, it could possibly gain a ring system similar to the one circling Saturn [PDF].

The chances of the moon Phobos disintegrating into a ring of debris around the red planet hinge on the satellite’s strength. The force of Mars' gravity is currently dragging the largest of its two moons towards it at a rate of 6.6 feet every 100 years. At that speed, the two bodies are set to collide in 30 to 50 million years or so, but some experts believe the moon won’t last that long. Phobos, which is likely composed of porous, heavily damaged rock, may instead be slowly taken apart by the planet’s gravity over the course of 20 to 40 million years. If that's the case, Mars will end up with a nifty new ring system made from the moon’s remains.

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The ring would initially be similar to Saturn's rings in terms of density, but as Mars continued to pull in debris from its orbit, the ring would eventually thin out. (Such rings in our solar system are generally composed of space debris and, possibly, destroyed moons.) As for what a Martian ring would look like, it all depends on your point of view. From the surface of Mars, you'd see a curved ring that looked either light (if the ring was reflecting extra light towards you) or dark (if you were standing in the ring's shadow). Either view could be dramatic for any Earthlings who might visit Mars in the future. They’ll just need to make sure they set up camp far away from the equator, as incoming ring particles could prove to be problematic. 

[h/t: Scientific American]

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History
When Chuck Yeager Tweeted Details About His Historic, Sound Barrier-Breaking Flight

Seventy years ago today—on October 14, 1947—Charles Elwood Yeager became the first person to travel faster than the speed of sound. The Air Force pilot broke the sound barrier in an experimental X-1 rocket plane (nicknamed “Glamorous Glennis”) over a California dry lake at an altitude of 25,000 feet.

In 2015, the nonagenarian posted a few details on Twitter surrounding the anniversary of the achievement, giving amazing insight into the history-making flight.

For even more on the historic ride, check out the video below.

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Mrs. John Herschel, Wikimedia Commons
8 Stellar Facts About the Most Accomplished Female Astronomer You’ve Never Heard Of
Mrs. John Herschel, Wikimedia Commons
Mrs. John Herschel, Wikimedia Commons

Caroline Herschel (1750-1848) was a German woman who made great contributions to science and astronomy. 

1. SHE WAS THE FIRST WOMAN TO DISCOVER A COMET.

Herschel spotted the comet (called 35P/Herschel-Rigollet) in December of 1788. Because its orbital period is 155 years, 35P/Herschel-Rigollet will next be visible to humans in the year 2092.

2. SHE INITIALLY WORKED AS A HOUSEKEEPER.

In her early twenties, Herschel moved from Germany to England to be a singer. Her brother William (the astronomer who discovered the planet Uranus and infrared radiation) gave her singing lessons, and she was his housekeeper. She later became his assistant, grinding and polishing the mirrors for his telescopes.

3. BUT SHE LATER TURNED HER REAL PASSION INTO A PAYING GIG.

Herschel was the first female scientist to ever be paid for her work. Starting in 1787, King George III paid her £50 per year to reward her for her scientific discoveries.

4. SHE WAS TECHNICALLY A LITTLE PERSON.

Herschel was only 4 feet 3 inches tall—her growth was stunted due to typhus when she was 10 years old.

5. SHE BROKE BARRIERS, EARNING RESPECT FROM THE HERETOFORE MALE-ONLY SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY.

Herschel was the first woman to receive a Gold Medal from London’s Royal Astronomical Society, in 1828. The second woman to receive one was well over 150 years later, in 1996.

6. SHE CHEATED AT MATH ... KIND OF.

Because Herschel was female and thus wasn’t allowed to learn math as a child, she used a cheat sheet with the multiplication tables on it when she was working.

7. EARTH'S MOON HONORS HER LEGACY.

By NASA / LRO_LROC_TEAM [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A crater on the moon is named in honor of Herschel—it’s called C. Herschel. The small crater is located on the west side of Mare Imbrium, one of the moon's large rocky plains.

8. SHE GARNERED AWARDS WELL INTO HER NINETIES.

For her 96th birthday, Prussian King Frederick William IV authorized that Herschel receive an award: the Gold Medal for Science.

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