United States Space Station photo southern united states at night as seen from the United Station States Space

United States Space Station photo southern united states at night as seen from the United Station States Space
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An Icy Nest Of Space Eggs. Methone is actually only one member of an icy nest of Space eggs, which also includes the very strange and smooth moons of Saturn, Pallene and Aegaeon. Aegaeon is a very, very small moonlet that also twirls around between Mimas and Enceladus. Like Methone, Aegaeon displays a mysteriously unblemished surface.

But small moons like Methone are usually geologically inactive and bereft of an atmosphere. Therefore, they are usually unable to smooth away the scars. Dr. Peter Thomas of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, explained it this way in the May 17, 2013 New Scientist: "When we look at objects less than 200 kilometers in radius, they are all like potatoes. They have lumps, grooves, craters." This makes Methone's smooth surface a mystery. Dr. Thomas is a Cassini team member.

Discovering the little moon also reinforces the theory that most dwarf planets have moons.

On March 27, 2012, Cassini made its closest flyby yet over Enceladus's "tiger stripes". In a string of enticingly close passes over the dazzling moon, the spacecraft saw more hints that watery jets may be shooting out into Space from an immense subsurface sea. The jets, tearing through cracks in the moon's icy crust, could lead back to a zone harboring living tidbits.

The twin spacecraft flew in an almost-circular orbit until the mission ended on December 17, 2012, when the probes were intentionally sent down to the lunar surface. NASA ultimately named the impact site in honor of the late astronaut Sally K. Ride, who was America's first woman in space and a member of the GRAIL mission team.

NASA's future exploration of ocean worlds is enhanced by HST's monitoring of Europa's possible plume activity and Cassini's long-term observations of the plume of Enceladus. In particular, the investigations of both ocean worlds are providing the groundwork for NASA's Europa Clipper mission, which is planned for launch in the 2020s.

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