The Composition of Phobos: Evidence for Carbonaceous Chondrite Surface from Spectral Analysis

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Science  06 Jan 1978:
Vol. 199, Issue 4324, pp. 64-66
DOI: 10.1126/science.199.4324.64


A reflectance spectrum of Phobos (from 200 to 1100 nanometers) has been compiled from the Mariner 9 ultraviolet spectrometer, Viking lander imaging, and ground-based photometric data. The reflectance of the martian satellite is approximately constant at 5 percent from 1100 to 400 nanometers but drops sharply below 400 nanometers, reaching a value of 1 percent at 200 nanometers. The spectral albedo of Phobos bears a striking resemblance to that of asteroids (1) Ceres and (2) Pallas. Comparison of the reflectance spectra of asteroids with those of meteorites has shown that the spectral signature of Ceres is indicative of a carbonaceous chondritic composition. A physical explanation of how the compositional information is imposed on the reflectance spectrum is given. On the basis of a good match between the reflectance spectra of Phobos and Ceres and the extensive research that has been done to infer the composition of Ceres, it seems reasonable to believe that the surface composition of Phobos is similar to that of carbonaceous chondrites. This suggestion is consistent with the recently determined low density of Mars's inner satellite. Our result and recent Viking noble gas measurements suggest different modes of origin for Mars and Phobos.