MGS-TES Spectra Suggest a Basaltic Component in the Regolith of Phobos

Timothy D. Glotch, Christopher S. Edwards, Mehmet Yesiltas, Katherine A. Shirley, Dylan S. McDougall, Alexander M. Kling, Joshua L. Bandfield, Christopher D.K. Herd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The origins of the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos have been the subjects of considerable debate. Visible and near-infrared spectra of these bodies are dark and nearly featureless, with red slopes of varying degrees. These spectra are generally consistent with those of carbonaceous asteroids, leading to the hypothesis that Phobos and Deimos are captured carbonaceous asteroids. The shapes and inclinations of the orbits of Phobos and Deimos present problems for the asteroid capture hypothesis. This had led researchers to suggest that Phobos and Deimos coaccreted with Mars or that they are the result of an impact with Mars or in the Mars vicinity. In this work, we reexamine Mars Global Surveyor Thermal Emission Spectrometer (MGS-TES) data of Phobos and compare spectra of the Phobos surface to mid-IR spectra of the ungrouped C2 meteorite Tagish Lake (a suggested analog for D-class asteroids) and particulate basalt and phyllosilicate samples (mixed with carbon black to reduce their visible albedos) acquired in a simulated airless body environment. We find that Tagish Lake is a poor mid-IR spectral analog to Phobos and that major spectral features in the Phobos spectrum are best matched by a silicate transparency feature similar to that found for finely particulate basalt. Other features in the spectrum are likely best explained by a phyllosilicate component. We suggest that these results indicate that at a portion of the Phobos surface regolith is derived from the Martian crust.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2467-2484
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2018


  • Phobos
  • Tagish Lake
  • spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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