The Solar System formed 4. 6 billion 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 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.
Galilean Moons Of Jupiter. One dark, clear January night in 1610, Galileo Galilei climbed to the roof of his house in Padua. He looked up at the sky that was speckled with the flickering fires of a multitude of starry objects, and then aimed his small, primitive "spyglass"--which was really one of the first telescopes--up at that star-blasted sky above his home. Over the course of several such starlit, clear winter nights, Galileo discovered the four large Galilean moons that circle around the largest planet in our Sun's family, the enormous, gaseous world, Jupiter. This intriguing quartet of moons--Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto--were named for four of the numerous mythic lovers of the King of the Roman gods.
"We developed new operations methods for INMS for Cassini's final flight through Enceladus' plume. We conducted extensive simulations, data analyses, and laboratory tests to identify background sources of hydrogen, allowing us to quantify just how much molecular hydrogen was truly originating from Enceladus itself," explained Dr. Rebecca Perryman in the April 13, 2017 SwRI Press Release. Dr. Perryman is INMS operations technical lead.