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Langley NASA Research Directorate inflating to decelerate spacecraft duke pratt school of Research Directorate Langley NASA

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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!



There is a bizarre rocky landscape, well hidden from our prying eyes, in the secretive shadows under the oceans of our Earth. Here, in this strange and alien domain, it is always as dark as midnight. Thin, tall towers of craggy rock emit billows of black smoke from their peaks, while all around the towers stand a weird, wavy multitude of red-and-white, tube-like organisms--that have no eyes, no intestines, and no mouth. These 3-foot-long tubeworms derive their energy from Earth itself, and not from the light of our nearby Sun--a feat that most biologists did not believe possible until these wormish creatures were discovered back in 2001. The extremely hot, superheated black water, billowing out from the hydrothermal vents erupting on Earth's seafloor, provides high-energy chemicals that sustain the tubeworms, as well as other weird organisms that apparently thrive in this very improbable habitat.



Until 2004, no spacecraft had visited Saturn for more than twenty years. Pioneer 11 had snapped the very first up close and personal images of Saturn when it traveled past it in 1979, Voyager 1 flew past Saturn about a year later, and in August 1981, Voyager 2 had its own fleeting but very productive close encounter. At last, on July 1, 2004, NASA's Cassini spacecraft went into orbit around Saturn, and started taking very revealing photographs of this bewitching planet and its many lovely and bizarre moons.