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The astronomers then conducted an analysis called a Bouger correction in order to subtract the gravitational effect of topological features, such as valleys and mountains, from the total gravity field. What is then left is the gravity field hidden beneath the lunar surface, existing within its crust.
This important measurement was made using Cassini's INMS instrument, which detects gases with the goal of determining their composition. INMS was designed to sample the upper atmosphere of Saturn's large, smoggy moon Titan. However, after Cassini's surprising discovery of a tall plume if icy spray erupting from cracks on Enceladus in 2005, planetary scientists turned its detectors to that small moon.
Makemake, like Pluto, shows a red hue in the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The near-infrared spectrum is marked by the existence of the broad methane absorption bands--and methane has also been observed on Pluto. Spectral analysis of Makemake's surface shows that its methane must be present in the form of large grains that are at least one centimeter in size. In addition to methane, there appears to be large quantities of ethane and tholins as well as smaller quantities of ethylene, acetylene, and high-mass alkanes (like propane)--most likely formed as a result of the photolysis of methane by solar radiation. The tholins are thought to be the source of the red color of the visible spectrum. Even though there is some evidence for the existence of nitrogen ice on Makemake's frozen surface, at least combined with other ices, it is probably not close to the same abundance of nitrogen seen on Pluto and on Triton. Triton is a large moon of the planet Neptune that sports a retrograde orbit indicating that it is a captured object. Many astronomers think that Triton is a wandering refugee from the Kuiper Belt that was captured by the gravity of its large, gaseous planet. It is possible that eventually the doomed Triton will plunge into the immense, deep blue world that it has circled for so long as an adopted member of its family. Nitrogen accounts for more than 98 percent of the crust of both Pluto and Triton. The relative lack of nitrogen ice on Makemake hints that its supply of nitrogen has somehow been depleted over the age of our Solar System.
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We earthlings love to look up at the moon. So much does the moon enamor us; we write movies, songs and poems by the droves that contain the name of the earth's super satellite. A case in point is the fact that one of the biggest selling record albums of all time is Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon."
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.
But what truly makes Enceladus so remarkable is that its habitable zone can be observed with relative ease by astronomers. Dr. Porco told the press on March 27, 2012 that "It's erupting out into space where we can sample it. It sounds crazy but it could be snowing microbes on the surface of this little world. In the end, it's the most promising place I know of for an astrobiology search. We don't even need to go scratching around on the surface. We can fly through the plume and sample it. Or we can land on the surface, look up and stick our tongues out. And voila... we have what we came for."