National Geographic Asteroid Belt space rocks delivered one two punch to ancient earth Geographic Asteroid National Belt

National Geographic Asteroid Belt space rocks delivered one two punch to ancient earth Geographic Asteroid National Belt

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A little interesting about space life.

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.



and here is another

Saturn, along with its frozen retinue of icy rings, dazzling moons, and sparkling moonlets, orbits our Sun about ten times farther out than the Earth. Astronomers received their first collection of detailed data about Titan when the Cassini/Huygens orbiter and lander arrived there in 2004. The Huygens lander successfully obtained revealing images when it drifted down to Titan's tormented, hydrocarbon-slashed surface, as well as when it was still floating slowly and softly down through the moon's thick, foggy, orange atmosphere--which has 1.4 times greater pressure than that of our own planet. These pictures, when combined with other studies using instruments aboard the Cassini orbiter, reveal to curious planetary scientists that Titan's geological features include lakes and river channels filled with methane, ethane, and propane. Titan's strange surface also shows mountains and sand dunes--and it is pockmarked by craters. The rippling dunes form when fierce winds sweep up loose particles from the surface and then tosses them downwind. However, the sands of Titan are not like the sands on our Earth. Titan's "sand" is both bizarre and alien, probably composed of very small particles of solid hydrocarbons--or, possibly, ice imprisoned within hydrocarbons--with a density of about one-third that of the sand on our own planet. Furthermore, Titan's gravity is low. In fact, it is only approximately one-seventh that of Earth. This means that, working in combination with the low density of Titan's sand particles, they carry only the small weight of a mere four percent that of terrestrial sand. Titan's "sand" is about the same light-weight as freeze-dried grains of coffee!



and finally

The astronomer Tycho Brahe, during the 17th century, measured the diurnal parallax of Mars that Johannes Kepler had used in order to make a preliminary calculation of the relative distance to the Red Planet. When the earliest telescopes to be used for astronomical purposes finally became available, the diurnal parallax of Mars was measured again in an attempt to determine the distance between our Sun and Earth. Giovanni Domenico Cassini was the first to make this measurement in 1692--but the early parallax measurements were hindered by the primitive quality of the instruments. The only occultation of Mars by the planet Venus was observed on October 13, 1590, by Michael Maestlin at Heidelberg. In 1610, Mars was viewed by the great astronomer Galileo Galilei, who was the first to make use of a primitive telescope for astronomical purposes. The Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens was the first to draw a map of Mars that showed terrain features.

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To help solve this mystery, Dr. Jacobson and his team devised supercomputer simulations of the growth of our Solar System's inner quartet of rocky, terrestrial planets out of the protoplanetary accretion disk swirling around our young Sun, from which the planetary building blocks, the planetesimals, eventually formed.



"How can this be? Is it just a matter of size? Location? What about Mercury and Venus? Did they grow on similar timescales to the Earth or on timescales more similar to Mars? I think these are some of the really important questions that we, as a community of planetary scientists, will be addressing in the future," Dr. Jacobson told the press in April 2014.



He added that "In our model for the Saturn system, we propose that Titan grew in a couple of giant impacts, each one combining the masses of the colliding bodies, while shedding a small family of middle-sized moons."