Planet.com Saturn natural science the planets in the solar system Saturn Planet.com

Planet.com Saturn natural science the planets in the solar system Saturn Planet.com

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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

Titan circles its giant parent-planet once every 15 days and 22 hours. Like Earth's own large Moon, and a number of other moons dancing around the quartet of giant gaseous planets of our Solar System's outer realm, its rotation period is identical to its orbital period. This means that Titan is tidally locked in synchronous rotation with Saturn--always showing only one face to its planet.



and finally

Methane and nitrogen present in Titan's atmosphere react together to create a variety of organic materials. Many planetary scientists think the heaviest materials somersault down to the surface of hydrocarbon-slashed Titan. Dr. Le Gall and her team propose that when those compounds splash into the sea, either by directly falling from the air as hydrocarbon rain, or through Titan's rivers, some are dissolved in the liquid methane. The compounds that do not dissolve, such as nitrites and benzene, sink down into the floor of this exotic sea.

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However, Earth's Moon presents a special problem because its surface becomes increasingly hotter and hotter over the course of a day. Alas, this is especially true at latitudes where the pyroclastic deposits are located. This means that in addition to the light reflected from the lunar surface, the spectrometer also winds up measuring heat.



By studying how the four inner planets evolved and grew--using more than 250 computer simulations--the planetary scientists discovered that if the Moon-birthing blast had happened early, the quantity of material accreted onto Earth afterward would be enormous. If the impact had occurred late, the amount of material would be relatively small.



Most of the moons of our Solar System are icy little desolate and dead worlds, dwelling in the dark, cold stillness of those regions far from the warmth and light of our Sun. However, a few of these small bodies may not be lifeless. For example, Europa of Jupiter may have a subsurface global ocean of liquid water secreted beneath its cracked, jumbled frozen crust of ice. This subsurface ocean might be warmed by tidal flexing into a hospitable, life-friendly liquid-water state, where primitive life-forms may swim around in the deep-sea darkness beneath Europa's ice. In addition, the second-largest moon in our Solar System, Titan of Saturn, possesses an environment that is eerily similar to that of our own planet long before life evolved out of the lifeless ooze (prebiotic). Big, lazy raindrops of liquid hydrocarbons float to the surface of this tormented, frigid moon, forming seas and lakes composed of methane and ethane that play the same role as water on Earth. It is entirely possible that life, as we do not know it, can evolve and flourish using liquids other than water. The largest moon of our Solar System, Ganymede of Jupiter, is larger than the innermost planet Mercury. Like its sister-moon Europa, Ganymede may hold secreted, beneath its surface crust of ice, a global ocean of liquid water. The little icy moon, Enceladus of Saturn, spews out geysers of water mixed with ammonia (which plays the role of antifreeze) from its so-called "tiger stripes". Therefore, Enceladus could also harbor life-loving water hidden beneath its icy surface.