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Among the ringed gas giant planet Saturn's amazing collection of 62 diverse, bizarre, and beautiful moons and moonlets, sometimes one of them just seems to stand out in the crowd. Such a moon is little Methone. Looking like a shiny white egg in Space, and composed of very lightweight fluffy stuff, Methone is less dense than any other known moon or asteroid in our Solar System. In March 2013, astronomers announced at the 44th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference held in the Woodlands, Texas, that this strange little 5-kilometer-size moon is one of a batch of Space eggs in orbit around Saturn!
For all its romance inspiring awesomeness, the moon has another side to its personality. Werewolves, mood swings and even wild behavior are often blamed on the full moon. How many times have you heard the question acrimoniously asked, "is it a full moon tonight?"
Until 2004, no spacecraft had visited Saturn for more than twenty years. Pioneer 11 took the very first close-up images of Saturn when it flew past in 1979. After that flyby, Voyager 1 had its rendezvous about a year later, and in August 1981 Voyager 2 had its brief, but glorious, encounter. Nearly a quarter of a century then passed before new high-resolution images of this beautiful, ringed planet were beamed back to Earth.
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Organic dust forms when organic molecules, resulting from the interaction of sunlight with methane, grow large enough to tumble down to the surface of Titan. Dr. Roderiguez continued to explain that, even though this is the first-ever observation of a dust storm on Titan, the discovery is not especially surprising.
Comets are actually bright, streaking invaders from far, far away that carry within their mysterious, frozen hearts the most pristine of primordial ingredients that contributed to the formation of our Solar System about 4.6 billion years ago. This primeval mix of frozen material has been preserved in the pristine "deep-freeze" of our Solar System's darkest, most distant domains. Comets are brilliant and breathtaking spectacles that for decades were too dismissively called "dirty snowballs" or "icy dirt balls", depending on the particular astronomer's point of view. These frozen alien objects zip into the inner Solar System, where our planet is situated, from their distant home beyond Neptune. It is generally thought that by acquiring an understanding of the ingredients that make up these ephemeral, fragile celestial objects, a scientific understanding of the mysterious ingredients that contributed to the precious recipe that cooked up our Solar System can be made.
The nitrogen that exists in Titan's atmosphere indicates that it likely formed early in our Solar System's 4.56 billion-year-old history. This means that Titan probably was born within the same cold disk of gas and dust that gave birth to our Sun (protostellar nebula), instead of forming in the warmer disk that eventually created Saturn.