Mayan Science and Astronomy mayan astronomy the scientific achievements of an ancient Mayan Astronomy and Science

Mayan Science and Astronomy mayan astronomy the scientific achievements of an ancient Mayan Astronomy and Science
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Mayan Science and Astronomy

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This important measurement was made using Cassini's INMS instrument, which detects gases with the goal of determining their composition. INMS was designed to sample the upper atmosphere of Saturn's large, smoggy moon Titan. However, after Cassini's surprising discovery of a tall plume if icy spray erupting from cracks on Enceladus in 2005, planetary scientists turned its detectors to that small moon.



There are over 100 moons dancing around the eight major planets of our Sun's family. Most of them are small, frozen, icy objects, harboring only a relatively scanty amount of rocky material, that circle around the quartet of giant gaseous planets that dwell in the outer, frigid realm of our Solar System--far from the comforting warmth and brilliance of our Star. The quartet of majestic, giant denizens of our outer Solar System--Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune--are enveloped with gaseous atmospheres, and orbited by a multitude of dancing, sparkling moons and moonlets. In marked contrast, the inner region of our Solar System--where our Earth dwells--is almost bereft of moons. Of the quartet of relatively petite, rocky "terrestrial" planets--Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars--only Earth is circled by a large Moon. Mercury and Venus are moonless, and Mars is orbited by a duo of tiny, lumpy, potato-shaped moons, Phobos and Deimos. Phobos and Deimos are probably escaped asteroids, born in the Main Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter, that were captured by the gravitational embrace of the Red Planet long ago.



Ganymede, and four other moons dwelling in our Sun's family, possess liquid water beneath their frigid crusts of ice. The others are Saturn's moons, Titan and Enceladus, and two other Galilean moons of Jupiter--Europa and Callisto. Planetary scientists think the oceans of Europa and Enceladus are in contact with rock--thus making these two moons high-priority targets for future astrobiology missions.

"The near-side of the Moon has been studied for centuries, and yet continues to offer up surprises for scientists with the right tools. We interpret the gravity anomalies discovered by GRAIL as part of the lunar magma plumbing system--the conduits that fed lava to the surface during ancient volcanic eruptions," Dr. Maria Zuber explained in an October 1, 2014 NASA Press Release. Dr. Zuber is from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge.



A moon is a natural body that is in orbit around a planet, and it is kept in place by both the host planet's gravity and the gravity of the moon itself. Some planets possess orbiting moons; some do not. There are several theories explaining how Earth's Moon came to be. At this point, the favored model is termed the giant impact theory, often playfully called the Big Whack or Big Splash theory by astronomers when they are in a humorous frame of mind. These funny nicknames were derived from the central tenet of the theory, which is that a Mars-sized body, named Theia, smacked into the primordial Earth billions of years ago. The collision caused part of our planet's crust to be hurled violently into space. Some of this shattered, somersaulting debris was snared into Earth-orbit, where it formed a host of moonlets that were ultimately pulled together by gravity to evolve into our Moon.



Astronomers are still debating Titan's origin. However, its intriguing atmosphere does provide a hint. Several instruments aboard the Huygens spacecraft measured the isotopes nitrogen-14 and nitrogen-15 in Titan's atmosphere. The instruments revealed that Titan's nitrogen isotope ratio most closely resembles that seen in comets that exist in the remote Oort Cloud--which is a sphere composed of hundreds of billions of icy comet nuclei that circle our Star at the amazing distance of between 5,000 and 100,000 AU. This shell of icy objects extends half way to the nearest star beyond our own Sun.

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