Asterism Astronomy



Full moons make for a wonderful setting for criminal activity, as we find in detective novels. It's that night when the gruesome murderer commits the ghastly crime and is seen by a non-descript, aged neighbor. The neighbor's claim to credibility in the witness box is the fact that there was a full moon on the night in question and everything was there for all to see; it was only a matter of chance that he or she was the only one to spot it! Full moon nights also offer the perfect cover for the snooping detective to hide behind the bush with his dim-witted assistant in tow. We live in a Cosmic "shooting gallery". Objects inhabiting our Solar System have been profusely and mercilessly blasted by showering asteroids and comets for billions and billions of years. However, planets and large moons have their way of smoothing away the scars--their strong gravity pulls them into a nice ball-like spherical shape. Furthermore, some of these larger spheres possess sufficient internal heat to cause flows of fiery lava and other volcanic features that can fill in the scars of impact craters. A few such large bodies are blasted by strong winds and pouring rains, which also erode away the pockmarks left on their surfaces by showering impactors. Cassini wasn't originally designed to spot signs of life in the Enceladus plume. In fact, planetary scientists didn't even know that the plume existed until after the spacecraft reached Saturn.