Astronomy
The Phobos Monolith (right of center) as taken by the Mars Global Surveyor (MOC Image 55103) in 1998

What is the Monolith on Mars Moon Phobos



The Phobos Monolith (right of center) as taken by the Mars Global Surveyor (MOC Image 55103) in 1998
Terrence Aym's image for:
"What is the Monolith on Mars Moon Phobos"
Caption: The Phobos Monolith (right of center) as taken by the Mars Global Surveyor (MOC Image 55103) in 1998
Location: 
Image by: Mars Global Surveyor MOC Image 55103 - Mars Global Surveyor - NASA, JPL
© This file is in the public domain because it was created by NASA. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Monolith55103h-crop.jpg

When NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) mapped the tiny Martian moon, Phobos and beamed back photos of the small, potato-shaped satellite, a furor broke out amongst space buffs. There, on the surface in plain view, stood a large rectangular object that unmistakably resembled an artificial monolith [Photo 1].

The buzz about the object became so intense that a famous "Buzz" entered the debate. Buzz Aldrin, second human to walk on the surface of the Moon, surprised many by asserting, "We should visit the moons of Mars. There's a monolith there-a very unusual structure on this little potato shaped object that goes around Mars once every seven hours. When people find out about that they are going to say, 'Who put that there? Who put that there?'"

But others—especially astronomers and imaging specialists—are saying not so fast.

A NASA imaging specialist, Lan Fleming, who studies Martian and other solar system anomalies examined the Phobos photo and believes the so-called monolith is just a physical anomaly.

Interest in the tiny Martian satellite has always been high, especially amongst scientists and science fiction enthusiasts.

As far back as 1966, astronomer Carl Sagan with Russian co-author I.S. Shklovskii, argued the case that Phobos might be an artificial satellite of Mars and even hollow inside! ["Intelligent Life in the Universe"]

Not to be outdone, famous science fact/science fiction author Dr. Isaac Asimov penned a tale wherein Phobos was a derelict generation starship that was accidentally captured by Mars' gravity eons ago.

With such fodder sparking the imagination of Mars enthusiasts it is little wonder that images like the famous "Face on Mars" and the relatively new image of the Phobos monolith [Photo 2] causes a stir in both the science and science fiction communities.

A spokesman for the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) department of the university's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Yisrael Spinoza, spoke about the analysis of the monolith.  HiRISE is located at the University of Arizona. They acquired the original MRO image of the Phobos anomaly and have studied it intensely.

Spinoza explains, "There are lots of rectangular boulders on Earth and Mars and other planets. Layering from rock deposition combined with tectonic fractures creates right-angle planes of weakness such that rectangular blocks tend to weather out and separate from the bedrock."

So the university thinks the monolith is nothing more than an unusual rock sticking out of the moon's surface.

Although Dr. Alan Hildebrand of the Phobos Reconnaissance and International Mars Exploration (PRIME) project agrees with Spinoza, it hasn't tempered his excitement over the discovery of the rock. The scientific researcher is certain that it could provide answers to questions about the moon's makeup and past. "If we can get to that object, we likely don’t need to go anywhere else."

Interesting links

Buzz Aldrin Reveals Existence of Monolith on Mars Moon

Phobos orbiting Mars

Close-up of Phobos

Monolith from "2001: A Space Odyssey"

Phobos monolith extreme close-up

Phobos monolith close-up

Phobos monolith another angle

 

More about this author: Terrence Aym