Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin



But there is an important difference. On our own planet, lakes and seas are flowing with water, while Titan's lakes and seas are filled primarily with methane and ethane, that slosh around within these liquid reservoirs. In this never-before-seen cycle, the hydrocarbon molecules evaporate and condense into clouds that send an exotic "rain of terror" back down to this strange moon-world's carbon-slashed surface. There are over 100 moons dancing around the eight major planets of our Sun's family. Most of them are small, frozen, icy objects, harboring only a relatively scanty amount of rocky material, that circle around the quartet of giant gaseous planets that dwell in the outer, frigid realm of our Solar System--far from the comforting warmth and brilliance of our Star. The quartet of majestic, giant denizens of our outer Solar System--Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune--are enveloped with gaseous atmospheres, and orbited by a multitude of dancing, sparkling moons and moonlets. In marked contrast, the inner region of our Solar System--where our Earth dwells--is almost bereft of moons. Of the quartet of relatively petite, rocky "terrestrial" planets--Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars--only Earth is circled by a large Moon. Mercury and Venus are moonless, and Mars is orbited by a duo of tiny, lumpy, potato-shaped moons, Phobos and Deimos. Phobos and Deimos are probably escaped asteroids, born in the Main Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter, that were captured by the gravitational embrace of the Red Planet long ago. A moon is defined as a natural satellite that orbits a larger body--such as a planet--that, in turn, orbits a star. The moon is kept in its position both by the gravity of the object that it circles, as well as by its own gravity. Some planets are orbited by moons; some are not. Some dwarf planets--such as Pluto--possess moons. In fact, one of Pluto's moons, named Charon, is almost half the size of Pluto itself, and some planetary scientists think that Charon is really a chunk of Pluto that was torn off in a disastrous collision with another object very long ago. In addition, some asteroids are also known to be orbited by very small moons.