Neptune Moons Nad It



Makemake, like Pluto, shows a red hue in the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The near-infrared spectrum is marked by the existence of the broad methane absorption bands--and methane has also been observed on Pluto. Spectral analysis of Makemake's surface shows that its methane must be present in the form of large grains that are at least one centimeter in size. In addition to methane, there appears to be large quantities of ethane and tholins as well as smaller quantities of ethylene, acetylene, and high-mass alkanes (like propane)--most likely formed as a result of the photolysis of methane by solar radiation. The tholins are thought to be the source of the red color of the visible spectrum. Even though there is some evidence for the existence of nitrogen ice on Makemake's frozen surface, at least combined with other ices, it is probably not close to the same abundance of nitrogen seen on Pluto and on Triton. Triton is a large moon of the planet Neptune that sports a retrograde orbit indicating that it is a captured object. Many astronomers think that Triton is a wandering refugee from the Kuiper Belt that was captured by the gravity of its large, gaseous planet. It is possible that eventually the doomed Triton will plunge into the immense, deep blue world that it has circled for so long as an adopted member of its family. Nitrogen accounts for more than 98 percent of the crust of both Pluto and Triton. The relative lack of nitrogen ice on Makemake hints that its supply of nitrogen has somehow been depleted over the age of our Solar System. After a long and dangerous journey through the space between planets, the Cassini/Huygens Spacecraft reached Saturn on July 1, 2004. On December 25, 2004, the Huygens Probe was purposely liberated from the Cassini Orbiter. Huygens then began its historic descent through the dense blanket of golden-orange fog to at last lift the veil hiding Titan's long-hidden face. Comets are really traveling relic icy planetesimals, the remnants of what was once a vast population of ancient objects that contributed to the construction of the quartet of giant, gaseous planets of the outer Solar System: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Alternatively, the asteroids--that primarily inhabit the region between Mars and Jupiter termed the Main Asteroid Belt--are the leftover rocky and metallic planetesimals that bumped into one another and then merged together to form the four rocky and metallic inner planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. Planetesimals of both the rocky and icy kind blasted into one another in the cosmic "shooting gallery" that was our young Solar System. These colliding objects also merged together to create ever larger and larger bodies--from pebble size, to boulder size, to mountain size--and, finally, to planet size.