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Mars Moon or Giant Potato? NASA's Latest Photo Has Everyone Bamboozled

Image credits: NASA/Instagram.

Image credits: NASA/Instagram.

In the photo that NASA posted on Monday, impact craters -- round grooves -- can be seen spread across its surface. In the lower right portion of the image, the large dent near its shiny edge is the Stickney impact basin. The basin has a diameter of about 9 kilometres.

Imagine you throw a potato in the air and the potato goes into space. Out of some space magic, the potato grows to 27 kilometres in diameter. When it passes near Mars, the red planet traps it into its gravitational pull. Now, what you are looking at is not a potato, it is a moon of Mars. The story may be imaginary but the moon of Mars Phobos is not. In a recent picture of the Mars satellite shared by NASA on Instagram, the Mars moon Phobos looks like a potato. NASA corrects the illusion in the caption, “You say potato, we say Mars Moon.⁣”

In the photo that NASA posted on Monday, impact craters — round grooves — can be seen spread across its surface. In the lower right portion of the image, the large dent near its shiny edge is the Stickney impact basin. The basin has a diameter of about 9 kilometres. The caption further mentions that according to scientists’ calculations, Phobos is coming about six feet closer to Mars every century, which means in 50 million years, the satellite will either crash into the red planet or break into a ring of debris. The grooves visible on the surface of the Mars moon, “could be the result of tidal forces – the mutual gravitational pull of the planet and the moon,” the caption reads.

The round edge of Phobos near Stickney impact basic looks shiny in the image. “It looks like it is made of some kind of metal,” an Instagram user commented on the photo. Another user assigned a creative name to it, “It is a mootato.” Registering their disagreement to the caption that calls Mars’ moon raggedy, “how dare NASA to call it raggedy, it is beautiful in its own right.”

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According to the caption, an interesting theory about the Mars moon is that maybe it was originally an asteroid that was captured by the red planet and now serves its planet’s gravitational pull. American astronomer Asaph Hall discovered Phobos in 1877 and named it after the Greek god Phobos, a personification of fear and panic.

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first published:July 14, 2021, 14:50 IST