Planets From Smallest to Largest



Full moons make for a wonderful setting for criminal activity, as we find in detective novels. It's that night when the gruesome murderer commits the ghastly crime and is seen by a non-descript, aged neighbor. The neighbor's claim to credibility in the witness box is the fact that there was a full moon on the night in question and everything was there for all to see; it was only a matter of chance that he or she was the only one to spot it! Full moon nights also offer the perfect cover for the snooping detective to hide behind the bush with his dim-witted assistant in tow. There was a time when Earth had no Moon. About 4.5 billion years ago, when our ancient Solar System was still forming, the dark night sky above our primordial planet was moonless. At this time, the Earth was about 60 percent formed, although it did have a differentiated crust, mantle, and core. This was a very chaotic and violent era in our Solar System's past, with planets first forming out of blobs of primordial dust, gas, and rock. During this era, frequently likened to a "cosmic shooting gallery", collisions between the still-forming planets were commonplace. Orbits were not as orderly as they are now. On July 20, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong radioed back from the surface of the Moon, "... the Eagle has landed". Most of us believe that the landing occurred as broadcast. Not all, however. More than 30 years after the fact, Fox TV aired "Conspiracy Theory: Did We Really Go to the Moon?". In doing so, the Fox entertainers unleashed a lively cabal of kooks and NASA-bashers on a scientifically naive audience without benefit of editorial balance. Polls suggest that perhaps 6% of Americans believe in the authenticity of these claims.