On the Impact Origin of Phobos and Deimos. III. Resulting Composition from Different Impactors

Francesco C. Pignatale, Sébastien Charnoz, Pascal Rosenblatt, Ryuki Hyodo, Tomoki Nakamura, Hidenori Genda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The origin of Phobos and Deimos in a giant impact-generated disk is gaining larger attention. Although this scenario has been the subject of many studies, an evaluation of the chemical composition of the Mars's moons in this framework is missing. The chemical composition of Phobos and Deimos is unconstrained. The large uncertainties about the origin of the mid-infrared features; the lack of absorption bands in the visible and near-infrared spectra; and the effects of secondary processes on the moons' surfaces make the determination of their composition very difficult using remote sensing data. Simulations suggest a formation of a disk made of gas and melt with their composition linked to the nature of the impactor and Mars. Using thermodynamic equilibrium, we investigate the composition of dust (condensates from gas) and solids (from a cooling melt) that result from different types of Mars impactors (Mars-, CI-, CV-, EH-, and comet-like). Our calculations show a wide range of possible chemical compositions and noticeable differences between dust and solids, depending on the considered impactors. Assuming that Phobos and Deimos resulted from the accretion and mixing of dust and solids, we find that the derived assemblage (dust-rich in metallic iron, sulfides and/or carbon, and quenched solids rich in silicates) can be compatible with the observations. The JAXA's Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission will investigate the physical and chemical properties of Phobos and Deimos, especially sampling from Phobos, before returning to Earth. Our results could be then used to disentangle the origin and chemical composition of the pristine body that hit Mars and suggest guidelines for helping in the analysis of the returned samples.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Feb 1


  • planets and satellites: composition
  • planets and satellites: formation
  • planets and satellites: individual (Phobos, Deimos)


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