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In September 2015, a new study provided an important missing piece to the intriguing puzzle of how our Moon came to be the lovely object that we see today.
At last, on July 1, 2004, the Cassini spacecraft fired off its breaking rocket, glided into orbit around Saturn, and started taking pictures that left scientists in awe. It wasn't as if they hadn't been prepared for such wonders. The weeks leading up to Cassini's arrival at Saturn had served to intensify their already heated anticipation. It seemed as if each approach-picture taken was more enticing than the one preceding it.
This gigantic "King of Planets" is considered by some astronomers to be a "failed star". It is about as large as a gas giant planet can be, and still be a planet. It is composed of approximately 90% hydrogen and 10% helium, with small amounts of water, methane, ammonia, and rocky grains mixed into the brew. If any more material were added on to this immense planet, gravity would hug it tightly--while its entire radius would barely increase. A baby star can grow to be much larger than Jupiter. However, a true star harbors its own sparkling internal source of heat--and Jupiter would have to grow at least 80 times more massive for its furnace to catch fire.
- Apollo 11 Landing in Ocean
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- Images From Kepler Telescope
- Other Planets That Have Life
- Eagle Nebula Face
- Making a Model Mars Rover
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- Before and After Cat S Eye Nebula
- Solar System Balloons
A moon is defined as a natural satellite that orbits a larger body--such as a planet--that, in turn, orbits a star. The moon is kept in its position both by the gravity of the object that it circles, as well as by its own gravity. Some planets are orbited by moons; some are not. Some dwarf planets--such as Pluto--possess moons. In fact, one of Pluto's moons, named Charon, is almost half the size of Pluto itself, and some planetary scientists think that Charon is really a chunk of Pluto that was torn off in a disastrous collision with another object very long ago. In addition, some asteroids are also known to be orbited by very small moons.
In September 2015, a team of astronomers released their study showing that they have detected regions on the far side of the Moon--called the lunar highlands--that may bear the scars of this ancient heavy bombardment. This vicious attack, conducted primarily by an invading army of small asteroids, smashed and shattered the lunar upper crust, leaving behind scarred regions that were as porous and fractured as they could be. The astronomers found that later impacts, crashing down onto the already heavily battered regions caused by earlier bombarding asteroids, had an opposite effect on these porous regions. Indeed, the later impacts actually sealed up the cracks and decreased porosity.
Like our own Earth, Titan's atmosphere is mainly made up of nitrogen--but with the added ingredient of a small amount of methane. It is the only other world in our Solar System that is actually known to have a cycle of liquids that shower back down to the surface again, in Titan's case as large, lazy drops of hydrocarbon rain. The clouds of Titan pour torrential rains of gasoline down to the surface of this tormented moon. Even though the ingredients are different, this cycle is similar to our own planet's water cycle. Many planetary scientists propose that Titan contains a subsurface ocean of sloshing liquid water.