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Interesting facts about space.

In a mysterious region beyond the orbit of the beautiful, banded, blue ice-giant planet Neptune--the most distant of the eight major planets from our Sun--there is a dark and frigid domain called the Kuiper Belt. Within this remote region, where our Sun shines with only a weak fire, and appears to be merely a particularly large star suspended in the black sky, a multitude of strange, icy worldlets tumble around our Star. Pluto, a large icy denizen inhabiting the Kuiper Belt, was originally classified as the ninth major planet from our Sun after its discovery in 1930. However, with the realization that this frozen "oddball" is really only one of several large, icy inhabitants of the Kuiper Belt, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) found it necessary to formally define "planet" in 2006--and poor Pluto was unceremoniously ousted from the pantheon of major planets. Pluto, now freshly reclassified as a dwarf planet, nonetheless remains a small world of great interest, debate, and affection. Scientists will soon learn much more about this beloved, distant, ice-ball so far away, when, after a treacherous nine-year journey of three million miles through interplanetary space, NASA's hearty New Horizons spacecraft arrives at Pluto on July 14, 2015.



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The HST images also showed that the moon Kerberos is charcoal black in color, which is in stark contrast to the brilliant white of the other moons of Pluto. It was predicted that dust blasted off the moons by meteorite impacts would blanket the moons, giving them a homogeneous appearance. However, the reason why Kerberos is black remains a mystery.



and finally

The team further ascertained the presence of the enormous, embedded lake by drawing a connection between processes seen on Europa and processes seen on our own planet. Ice-piercing radar, that can delve through thick layers of ice sheets, has been used to locate numerous subglacial lakes in Antarctica.

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"This is still very much an area of active research, so there is much that scientists including our Department of Terrestrial Magnetism staff scientist Erik Hauri, as well as many other Carnegie colleagues and alumni, are figuring out about how much water exists on the Moon. This is a highly important and challenging question to answer given that we have limited knowledge on the history and distribution of lunar water," explained Dr. Miki Nakajima in a February 26, 2018 Carnegie Institution Press Release. Dr. Nakajima, who is of the Carnegie Institution of Washington (D.C.), along with California Institute of Technology's (Caltech's) Dr. David Stevenson, set out to determine whether prevailing lunar formation models need to be adjusted to explain more recent higher estimates of the quantity of water on Earth's Moon. Caltech is in Pasadena.



The scientists modeled different temperatures and water abundances that may have been present in the Moon-birthing disk. At higher temperatures, their disk was primarily composed of silicate vapor, which formed as a result of evaporation of the mantles of both the proto-Earth and the doomed Theia. The disk at these higher temperatures also contained a relatively small quantity of hydrogen dissociated from water. In contrast, at lower temperatures, their disk was primarily composed of water, from which hydrogen did not dissociate under this cooler temperature range--thus making its escape mechanism very inefficient.



The more widely accepted theory that the planets and regular moons formed together from the same swirling cloud of gas and dust, works well as an explanation for the larger moons of our Solar System, such as the four Galilean moons--Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto--orbiting the giant planet Jupiter. However, the multitude of smaller moons, swarming around the giant planets, "have so far been considered a by-product," Dr. Crida commented in the November 29, 2012 Scientific American.

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