Clever Ways to Remember the Order of the Planets

With the GRAIL data, the astronomers were able to map the gravity field both in and around over 1,200 craters on the lunar far side. This region--the lunar highlands--is our Moon's most heavily cratered, and therefore oldest, terrain. Heavily cratered surfaces are older than smoother surfaces that are bereft of craters. This is because smooth surfaces indicate that more recent resurfacing has occurred, erasing the older scars of impact craters. But small moons like Methone are usually geologically inactive and bereft of an atmosphere. Therefore, they are usually unable to smooth away the scars. Dr. Peter Thomas of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, explained it this way in the May 17, 2013 New Scientist: "When we look at objects less than 200 kilometers in radius, they are all like potatoes. They have lumps, grooves, craters." This makes Methone's smooth surface a mystery. Dr. Thomas is a Cassini team member. The scientists also ruled out the possibility that the mysterious features actually exist on Titan's surface in the form of frozen methane rain or icy lava erupted from cryovolcanoes. Such surface features would show a different chemical signature and would be visible for much longer periods of time than the bright features observed in this study. The bright features were visible from time spans of only 11 hours to five weeks.