Early NASA Space Program



"We are just beginning to try and figure out quantitatively how all this might smooth a surface," Dr. Thomas said in the May 17, 2013 New Scientist. There are over 100 moons dancing around the eight major planets of our Sun's family. Most of them are small, frozen, icy objects, harboring only a relatively scanty amount of rocky material, that circle around the quartet of giant gaseous planets that dwell in the outer, frigid realm of our Solar System--far from the comforting warmth and brilliance of our Star. The quartet of majestic, giant denizens of our outer Solar System--Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune--are enveloped with gaseous atmospheres, and orbited by a multitude of dancing, sparkling moons and moonlets. In marked contrast, the inner region of our Solar System--where our Earth dwells--is almost bereft of moons. Of the quartet of relatively petite, rocky "terrestrial" planets--Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars--only Earth is circled by a large Moon. Mercury and Venus are moonless, and Mars is orbited by a duo of tiny, lumpy, potato-shaped moons, Phobos and Deimos. Phobos and Deimos are probably escaped asteroids, born in the Main Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter, that were captured by the gravitational embrace of the Red Planet long ago. Enceladus: Enceladus has shown geysers of water that were confirmed by the Cassini spacecraft in 2005. Gravimetric data obtained from 2010 to 2011 confirmed the existence of a subsurface ocean. Even though originally it was thought to be localized, most likely in a region of the icy moon's southern hemisphere, evidence collected in 2015 indicates the subsurface ocean is actually global. Furthermore, in additon to water, these geysers from vents located near the south pole of Enceladus contain tiny quantities of salt, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and volatile hydrocarbons. Tidal flux from Saturn is apparently responsible for the melting of the ocean water, as well as the geysers.