NASA Photos Moon Stars



A moon is defined as a natural satellite that orbits a larger body--such as a planet--that, in turn, orbits a star. The moon is kept in its position both by the gravity of the object that it circles, as well as by its own gravity. Some planets are orbited by moons; some are not. Some dwarf planets--such as Pluto--possess moons. In fact, one of Pluto's moons, named Charon, is almost half the size of Pluto itself, and some planetary scientists think that Charon is really a chunk of Pluto that was torn off in a disastrous collision with another object very long ago. In addition, some asteroids are also known to be orbited by very small moons. The very productive Cassini mission might attain some indirect information by analyzing the ring arc material--however, it is unlikely to come close to the little moon again before the mission ends in 2017. Other than the sun, no other celestial body significantly affects the earth as the moon does. It is well know that the moon affects the rise and fall of the ocean tide. Such is the effect of the gravitational pull between the earth and the moon. Jupiter is easily the largest planet in our solar system. To put its size in context, Jupiter is more than 300 times the mass of Earth. Here is the interesting part; Jupiter has 63 moons that orbit it and yet it is not the planet in the Solar System with the most moons. That honor belongs to the ringed-planet Saturn, which has 66 moons identified so far. Pluto, the farthest flung among the nine planets, has been the subject of heated debate on whether it really qualifies to be considered a planet. Nowadays, it is classified as a dwarf planet. Its orbit around the Sun is somewhat heavily elliptical. In fact, there are instances where Pluto is actually closer to the Sun than Neptune, the planet that precedes it.