Solar System and Math

The Solar System formed 4. 6┬ábillion years ago from the gravitational collapse of a giant interstellar molecular cloud. The vast majority of the system’s mass is in the Sun, with the majority of the remaining mass contained in Jupiter. The four smaller inner planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, are terrestrial planets, being primarily composed of rock and metal. The four outer planets are giant planets, being substantially more massive than the terrestrials. The two largest, Jupiter and Saturn, are gas giants, being composed mainly of hydrogen and helium; the two outermost planets, Uranus and Neptune, are ice giants, being composed mostly of substances with relatively high melting points compared with hydrogen and helium, called volatiles, such as water, ammonia and methane. All eight planets have almost circular orbits that lie within a nearly flat disc called the ecliptic.

The astronomers then conducted an analysis called a Bouger correction in order to subtract the gravitational effect of topological features, such as valleys and mountains, from the total gravity field. What is then left is the gravity field hidden beneath the lunar surface, existing within its crust. 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 team's findings can also be applied to exoplanets, which are planets that circle stars beyond our own Sun. Some super-Earth exoplanets, which are rocky planets more massive than our own, have been proposed as "water worlds" covered with churning oceans. Could they have life? Perhaps. The potential would certainly be there. Dr. Vance and his team believe laboratory experiments and more sophisticated modeling of exotic oceans might help to find answers to these very profound questions.