Ceres, the only object in the asteroid belt large enough to be called a dwarf planet, is about 950 km in diameter, whereas Vesta, Pallas, and Hygiea have mean diameters of less than 600 km. The remaining bodies range down to the size of a dust particle. The asteroid material is so thinly distributed that numerous unmanned spacecraft have traversed it without incident. Nonetheless, collisions between large asteroids do occur, and these can produce an asteroid family whose members have similar orbital characteristics and compositions. Individual asteroids within the asteroid belt are categorized by their spectra, with most falling into three basic groups: carbonaceous (C-type), silicate (S-type), and metal-rich (M-type).
Launched as GRAIL A and GRAIL B in September 2011, the probes were renamed Ebb and Flow by schoolchildren in Montana. The probes operated in almost circular orbit near the lunar poles at an altitude of approximately 34 miles, until their mission came to an end in December 2012. The distance between the twin probes altered a bit as they soared over areas of lesser and greater gravity that were caused by visible topological features on the Moon's surface, such as impact craters and mountains--as well as by masses that were secreted beneath the lunar surface. "Since time immemorial, humanity has looked up and wondered what made the man in the Moon. We know the dark splotches are large, lava-filled, impact basins that were created by asteroid impacts about four billion years ago. GRAIL data indicate that both the near side and the far side of the Moon were bombarded by similarly large impactors, but they reacted to them much differently," noted Dr. Maria Zuber, GRAIL principal investigator, in a November 7, 2013 NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Press Release. Dr. Zuber is of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The JPL is located in Pasadena, California. Using computer models, the team of scientists came up with a complex interior structure for Ganymede, composed of an ocean sandwiched between up to three layers of ice--in addition to the very important rocky seafloor. The lightest ice, of course, would be on top, and the saltiest liquid would be heavy enough to sink to the bottom. Furthermore, the results suggest the existence of a truly weird phenomenon that would cause the oceans to "snow" upwards! This bizarre "snow" might develop because, as the oceans swirl and churn, and frigid plumes wind and whirl around, ice in the uppermost ocean layer, called Ice III, may form in the seawater. When ice forms, salts precipitate out. The heavier salts would then tumble down, and the lighter ice, or "snow," would flutter upward. The "snow" would them melt again before reaching the top of the ocean--and this would possibly leave slush lurking in the middle of the moon's odd sandwich!