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The new findings are an independent line of evidence that hydrothermal activity is taking place in the subsurface ocean of Enceladus. Earlier results, published in March 2015, indicated hot water is interacting with rock beneath the sea of this distant moon. The new discoveries support that conclusion and add that the rock appears to be reacting chemically to produce the hydrogen.
However, it was little Enceladus that gave astronomers their greatest shock. Even though the existence of Enceladus has been known since it was discovered by William Herschel in 1789, its enchantingly weird character was not fully appreciated until this century. Indeed, until the Voyagers flew past it, little was known about the moon. However, Enceladus has always been considered one of the more interesting members of Saturn's abundantly moonstruck family, for a number of very good reasons. First of all, it is amazingly bright. The quantity of sunlight that an object in our Solar System reflects back is termed its albedo, and this is calculated primarily by the color of the object's ground coating. The albedo of the dazzling Enceladus is almost a mirror-like 100%. Basically, this means that the surface of the little moon is richly covered with ice crystals--and that these crystals are regularly and frequently replenished. When the Voyagers flew over Enceladus in the 1980s, they found that the object was indeed abundantly coated with glittering ice. It was also being constantly, frequently repaved. Immense basins and valleys were filled with pristine white, fresh snow. Craters were cut in half--one side of the crater remaining a visible cavity pockmarking the moon's surface, and the other side completely buried in the bright, white snow. Remarkably, Enceladus circles Saturn within its so-called E ring, which is the widest of the planet's numerous rings. Just behind the moon is a readily-observed bulge within that ring, that astronomers determined was the result of the sparkling emission emanating from icy volcanoes (cryovolcanoes) that follow Enceladus wherever it wanders around its parent planet. The cryovolanoes studding Enceladus are responsible for the frequent repaving of its surface. In 2008, Cassini confirmed that the cryovolanic stream was composed of ordinary water, laced with carbon dioxide, potassium salts, carbon monoxide, and a plethora of other organic materials. Tidal squeezing, caused by Saturn and the nearby sister moons Dione and Tethys, keep the interior of Enceladus pleasantly warm, and its water in a liquid state--thus allowing the cryovolcanoes to keep spewing out their watery eruptions. The most enticing mystery, of course, is determining exactly how much water Enceladus holds. Is there merely a lake-sized body of water, or a sea, or a global ocean? The more water there is, the more it will circulate and churn--and the more Enceladus quivers and shakes, the more likely it is that it can brew up a bit of life.
Still, the moon is important and interesting to all of us who live in sight of its majestic beauty. We never tire wondering about it. In this article, we will talk about the moon, its cycles and the phenomenon known as the "blue moon." Then, we will even give you a heads up as to when you can expect the next several full moons.
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"Our gravity data are opening up a new chapter of lunar history, during which the Moon was a more dynamic place than suggested by the cratered landscape that is visible to the naked eye. More work is needed to understand the cause of this newfound pattern of gravity anomalies, and the implications for the history of the Moon," Dr. Andrews-Hanna explained in the October 1, 2014 NASA Press Release.
Once in a blue moon. Technically, it takes the moon an average of 29.53 days to travel around the earth. Most months are longer than this. So, it is possible to have more than one full moon in one month. When this happens, the second moon is called a "calendar blue moon." Of course, this is a simple rule. So, let's complicate it!
Determining the shape of the moon's orbit will help resolve the question of its mysterious origin. A tight circular orbit would indicate that MK 2 is likely the result of a collision between Makemake and another KBO. Conversely, if the moon is in a wide, elongated orbit, it is more likely to be a captured object from the Kuiper Belt. In either case, the event would have probably occurred several billion years ago, in our primeval Solar System.