How Does the Look in the Solar System Planets

Among the ringed gas giant planet Saturn's amazing collection of 62 diverse, bizarre, and beautiful moons and moonlets, sometimes one of them just seems to stand out in the crowd. Such a moon is little Methone. Looking like a shiny white egg in Space, and composed of very lightweight fluffy stuff, Methone is less dense than any other known moon or asteroid in our Solar System. In March 2013, astronomers announced at the 44th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference held in the Woodlands, Texas, that this strange little 5-kilometer-size moon is one of a batch of Space eggs in orbit around Saturn! A billion years ago, our Moon was closer to Earth than it is now. As a result, it appeared to be a much larger object in the sky. During that ancient era, if human beings had been around to witness such a sight, it would have been possible to see the entire Moon--not merely the one near side face that we see now. A billion years ago, it took our Moon only twenty days to orbit our planet, and Earth's own day was considerably shorter--only eighteen hours long. Stupendous, almost unimaginably enormous tides, that were more than a kilometer in height, would ebb and flow every few hours. However, things changed, as the lunar orbit around our primordial planet grew ever wider and wider. Annually, Earth's Moon moves about 1.6 inches farther out into space. Currently, the lunar rate of rotation, as well as the time it takes to circle our planet, are the same. Makemake is a classical KBO. This means that its orbit is situated far enough away from Neptune to remain in a stable stage over the entire age of our more than 4 billion year old Solar System. Classical KBOs have perihelia that carry them far from the Sun, and they are also peacefully free from Neptune's perturbing influence. Such objects show relatively low eccentricities and circle our Star in a way that is similar to that of the major planets. However, Makemake is a member of what is referred to as a "dynamically hot" class of classical KBOs, which instead display a high inclination when compared to other classical KBOs.