5th Grade Planets



A Moon Made Of Lightweight Fluff! Methone is small and oval--and unlike other tiny objects, composed of rock and ice, that scurry around our Solar System. Methone, which was observed up close for the very first time in 2012, is not pockmarked by impacts like other worldlets of its kind. Instead, this strange little moon, is very smooth--it shows not a hill nor an impact crater anywhere on its weirdly smooth surface. This shiny, white, icy egg in Space, residing in a peaceful nest of ice crystals, is an enigma wrapped in a bewildering mystery that some astronomers may have solved. The answer to the bewitching riddle of Methone? It is composed of lightweight fluff! On July 20, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong radioed back from the surface of the Moon, "... the Eagle has landed". Most of us believe that the landing occurred as broadcast. Not all, however. More than 30 years after the fact, Fox TV aired "Conspiracy Theory: Did We Really Go to the Moon?". In doing so, the Fox entertainers unleashed a lively cabal of kooks and NASA-bashers on a scientifically naive audience without benefit of editorial balance. Polls suggest that perhaps 6% of Americans believe in the authenticity of these claims. When the American astronomer James Christy discovered Pluto's largest moon Charon back in 1978, astronomers were quick to calculate the mass of the system. Pluto's mass was hundreds of times smaller than the mass originally estimated for it when it was first discovered in 1930. With Charon's discovery, astronomers suddenly acquired a new understanding that something was fundamentally different about Pluto.