NASA Space Spin-Offs

Saturn is a lovely planet, with its magnificent system of gossamer rings, shining moons of ice, and myriads of glimmering, frozen, dancing moonlets that twirl and somersault both inside and outside of the enchanting system of rings. In Western astrology, the Sun represents who we are in the world, the outward projection of our personality, and the mark we wish to make. By contrast, the moon governs our emotions, our primal instincts, and our unconscious mind. It represents a feminine energy, and is often personified as a goddess or mother. In other words, those deep intuitive urges-those passionate feelings we can't quite describe-are embodied in the moon. No wonder so many love poems have been penned under the influence of its rays! A moon is a natural body that is in orbit around a planet, and it is kept in place by both the host planet's gravity and the gravity of the moon itself. Some planets possess orbiting moons; some do not. There are several theories explaining how Earth's Moon came to be. At this point, the favored model is termed the giant impact theory, often playfully called the Big Whack or Big Splash theory by astronomers when they are in a humorous frame of mind. These funny nicknames were derived from the central tenet of the theory, which is that a Mars-sized body, named Theia, smacked into the primordial Earth billions of years ago. The collision caused part of our planet's crust to be hurled violently into space. Some of this shattered, somersaulting debris was snared into Earth-orbit, where it formed a host of moonlets that were ultimately pulled together by gravity to evolve into our Moon.