Patriotic Astronaut



Therefore, even though Enceladus is only Saturn's sixth-largest moon, it is amazingly active. Because of the success of the Cassini mission, scientists now know that geysers spew watery jets hundreds of kilometers out into Space, originating from what may well be a vast subsurface sea. These jets, which erupt from fissures in the little moon's icy shell, whisper a siren's song to bewitched astronomers. This is because the jets suggest that the icy moon may harbor a zone where life might have evolved. The jets dramatically spray water ice from numerous fissures near the south pole, that have been playfully termed "tiger stripes." The "tiger stripes" look like giant scratches made by a tiger's raking claws. The Cassini Imaging Team discovered Methone (pronounced me-thoh-nee) on June 1, 2004. This tiny moon orbits between two of Saturn's mid-sized icy moons, Mimas and Enceladus, at a radius of about 194,000 kilometers (120,456 miles) from its planet. Astronomers have suggested two differing theories to explain the presence of Methone and two other small sister moons, Pallene and Anthe. The first theory indicates that the three little moons may have fragmented off of either Mimas or Enceladus. The second theory, on the other hand, suggests that all five moons--the three small moons and the two mid-size ones--may be the sad remnants of a larger menagerie of moons that floated around in that area--which is situated close to Saturn. Methone orbits its gigantic parent planet in 24 hours. The Kuiper Belt. Dark, distant, and cold, the Kuiper Belt is the remote domain of an icy multitude of comet nuclei, that orbit our Sun in a strange, fantastic, and fabulous dance. Here, in the alien deep freeze of our Solar System's outer suburbs, the ice dwarf planet Pluto and its quintet of moons dwell along with a cornucopia of others of their bizarre and frozen kind. This very distant region of our Star's domain is so far from our planet that astronomers are only now first beginning to explore it, thanks to the historic visit to the Pluto system by NASA's very successful and productive New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015. New Horizons is now well on its way to discover more and more long-held secrets belonging to this distant, dimly lit domain of icy worldlets.