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Saturns Mysterious Moons Cosmic Journeys - Saturns Mysterious Moons

  
Saturns Mysterious Moons Cosmic Journeys - Saturns Mysterious Moons
Category: Science

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Uploaded: 2014-07-22 16:12:44

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    Saturns Mysterious Moons Launched three years before the new century... a spacecraft wound its way through the empty reaches of the solar system. On Earth, its progress was little noted, as it swung twice by the planet Ven...
    Saturns Mysterious Moons Launched three years before the new
    century... a spacecraft wound its way through the empty reaches of
    the solar system. On Earth, its progress was little noted, as it
    swung twice by the planet Venus, then our moon. And Earth. The
    asteroid belt. And Jupiter.Almost seven years later, on the first of
    July 2004, the Cassini probe entered the orbit of Saturn. It then
    began to compile what has become one of the greatest photographic
    collections of all time, of a giant gas planet, surrounded by
    colorful rings, guarded by a diverse collection of moons, and
    millions of tiny moonlets. Within this record, is a trail of
    clues... pointing to the energy sources and complex chemistry needed
    to spawn life. What are these mysterious worlds telling us about the
    universe, and Earth? In the outer reaches of the solar system, a
    billion and a half kilometers from the Sun... there is a little
    world known as Enceladus. Nearly all of the sunlight that strikes
    its icy surface is reflected back into space, making it one of the
    brightest objects in the solar system.At its equator, the average
    temperature is minus 198 degrees Celsius. It can rise about 70
    degrees higher in grooves that stretch across the south pole like
    tiger stripes. Looming over it is the giant planet Saturn.In myth,
    Saturn - the Roman name for the primal Greek God Chronos - was the
    youngest son of Gaia, or Earth, and Uranus, sky. Wielding a scythe
    provided by his mother, the story goes, Saturn confronted his
    abusive father, castrating him. The blood of Uranus flowed into the
    seas, fertilizing the Earth and giving rise to Enceladus and other
    giant offspring. Saturns moon Enceladus has its own tangled story.
    In 2005, the Cassini spacecraft spotted plumes of water vapor
    shooting out into space from its south pole. More recent close
    encounters have revealed jets of water, flavored by slightly salty
    chemical compounds, spewing out from vents in the rough, cracked
    polar terrain. That may mean that Enceladus harbors a remarkable
    secret below its frigid surface A liquid ocean, and perhaps, a
    chemical environment that could spawn simple life forms. Its not the
    only promising stop in the realm of Saturn. The moon Titan is often
    said to resemble Earth in its early days. It is lined with volcanoes
    and a hazy atmosphere rich in organic compounds. While Enceladus is
    the size of Great Britain, Titan is ten times larger, 50% larger
    than our moon, and the second largest moon in our solar system.Weve
    known about Titan since the astronomer Christian Huygens discovered
    it in 1655, and Enceladus since William Herschel spotted it in
    August 1789, just after the start of the French Revolution.
    Scientists began to investigate these moons in earnest with the
    launch of the two Voyager spacecraft in 1977. The lineup of outer
    planets in the solar system allowed the spacecraft to fly past each
    of them.They disclosed new details about their magnetic fields,
    atmospheres, ring systems, and inner cores. But what really turned
    heads were the varied shapes and surfaces of their moons. Theyve all
    been pummeled over the millennia by wayward asteroids and comets. A
    few appear to be sculpted by forces below their surfaces. Neptunes
    largest moon Triton has few craters. Its marked with circular
    depressions bounded by rugged ridges. There are also grooves and
    folds that stretch for dozens of miles, a sign of fracturing and
    deforming. Triton has geysers too, shooting some five miles above
    the surface. But on this frigid moon -- so far from the Sun -- the
    liquid that spouts is not water but nitrogen. Tiny Miranda, one of
    27 known moons that orbit Uranus, wears a jumbled skin thats been
    shaped and reshaped by forces within. Jupiters moon Io -- orbiting
    perilously close to the giant planet is literally turning itself
    inside out. Rivers of lava roll down from open craters that erupt
    like fountains. Flying by Europa, Voyager documented a complex
    network of criss-crossing grooves and ridges. In the 1990s, the
    Galileo spacecraft went back to get a closer look. It found that
    Europas surface is a crazy quilt of fractured plates, cliff faces
    and gullies... amid long grooves like a network of superhighways.
    How did it get like this? Then, heat rising up through a subsurface
    ocean of liquid water cracks, and shifts, and spreads the icy
    surface in a thousand different ways. Europas neighbors, Callisto
    and Ganymede, show similar features, suggesting they too may have
    liquid oceans below their surfaces. Crossing outward to Saturn,
    Voyager found a similar surface on the moon Enceladus. So when the
    Cassini spacecraft arrived in 2004, it came looking for answers to a
    range of burning questions if this moon and others have subsurface
    oceans? Do they also have the ability to cook up and support life?
    And what could they tell us about the origin of life throughout the
    galaxy?
  • Tags:  Saturn  Mysterious  Moons  
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