Starlite Astronaut



The GRAIL mission determined the internal structure of the Moon in great detail for nine months during 2012. Armed with this the new information, GRAIL astronomers were able to redefine the sizes of the largest impact basins on the lunar surface. When the American astronomer James Christy discovered Pluto's largest moon Charon back in 1978, astronomers were quick to calculate the mass of the system. Pluto's mass was hundreds of times smaller than the mass originally estimated for it when it was first discovered in 1930. With Charon's discovery, astronomers suddenly acquired a new understanding that something was fundamentally different about Pluto. Life as we know it depends on the presence of three ingredients: liquid water; a source of energy for metabolism; and the right chemical ingredients, mainly carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. With this new discovery of the existence of hydrogen, in the tattle-tale plume shooting out from the surface of Enceladus, Cassini has revealed to the prying eyes of curious astronomers, that this small, icy moon has almost all of these ingredients important for habitability. At this point, Cassini has not detected the presence of phosphorus and sulfur in the hidden subsurface ocean of this distant small world, but many planetary scientists suspect that they will eventually be detected because the rocky core of Enceladus is believed to be similar to certain meteorities that contain these two critical elements.