Solar System Blankets

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.

A Moon Made Of Lightweight Fluff! Methone is small and oval--and unlike other tiny objects, composed of rock and ice, that scurry around our Solar System. Methone, which was observed up close for the very first time in 2012, is not pockmarked by impacts like other worldlets of its kind. Instead, this strange little moon, is very smooth--it shows not a hill nor an impact crater anywhere on its weirdly smooth surface. This shiny, white, icy egg in Space, residing in a peaceful nest of ice crystals, is an enigma wrapped in a bewildering mystery that some astronomers may have solved. The answer to the bewitching riddle of Methone? It is composed of lightweight fluff! The precise chemical composition of these very alien lakes and seas remained unknown until 2014, when Cassini's radar instrument detected Ligeia Mare, now known to be Titan's second-largest hydrocarbon-filled lake. Ligeia Mare is brimming with an abundance of sloshing methane, and this enormous liquid reservoir is approximately the same size as two of Earth's Great Lakes combined--Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Many planetary scientists think that the seabed of Ligeia Mare may be blanketed with a thick layer of sludge that is composed of organic-rich compounds. Dr. Soderblom further explained to the press that the gravity signatures of the larger craters especially may shed new light into the number of impacts Earth's Moon, and other bodies in our Solar System, suffered during the asteroid-rampage that characterized the Late Heavy Bombardment.