Nml Red Giant some exoplanets orbiting red giant stars may just be a Giant Red Nml

Nml Red Giant some exoplanets orbiting red giant stars may just be a Giant Red Nml

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The existence of ample amounts of hydrogen in the subsurface ocean of Enceladus indicates that microbes--if any exist there--could use it to obtain energy by mixing with carbon dioxide dissolved in water. This particular chemical reaction, termed methanogenesis, because it manufactures methane as a byproduct, may have been of critical importance in the emergence of life on our planet.



The Ocean Worlds Of Our Solar System. There are more than 100 moons in our Solar System that do their mysterious gravitational dance around the eight major planets belonging to our Sun's family. Most of them are icy and small, containing only tiny quantities of rocky material, and they circle around the quartet of giant gaseous planets that dwell in the outer regions of our Solar System. The four majestic, giant denizens of the outer limits--Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune--are cloaked in blankets of gas, and they are orbited by sparkling, icy moons and moonlets. Of the quartet of relatively small, rocky terrestrial planets--Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars--Mercury and Venus are moonless, and Mars is circled by a pathetic duo of tiny and somewhat deformed moons (Phobos and Deimos). The two little moons of Mars are interesting objects, frequently considered to be asteroids that escaped from the Main Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter, only to be snared by the Red Planet's gravitational pull when our Solar System was young. Earth's own beautiful, beguiling, bewitching Moon is the only large one inhabiting the inner kingdom of our Solar System.



However, it was little Enceladus that gave astronomers their greatest shock. Even though the existence of Enceladus has been known since it was discovered by William Herschel in 1789, its enchantingly weird character was not fully appreciated until this century. Indeed, until the Voyagers flew past it, little was known about the moon. However, Enceladus has always been considered one of the more interesting members of Saturn's abundantly moonstruck family, for a number of very good reasons. First of all, it is amazingly bright. The quantity of sunlight that an object in our Solar System reflects back is termed its albedo, and this is calculated primarily by the color of the object's ground coating. The albedo of the dazzling Enceladus is almost a mirror-like 100%. Basically, this means that the surface of the little moon is richly covered with ice crystals--and that these crystals are regularly and frequently replenished. When the Voyagers flew over Enceladus in the 1980s, they found that the object was indeed abundantly coated with glittering ice. It was also being constantly, frequently repaved. Immense basins and valleys were filled with pristine white, fresh snow. Craters were cut in half--one side of the crater remaining a visible cavity pockmarking the moon's surface, and the other side completely buried in the bright, white snow. Remarkably, Enceladus circles Saturn within its so-called E ring, which is the widest of the planet's numerous rings. Just behind the moon is a readily-observed bulge within that ring, that astronomers determined was the result of the sparkling emission emanating from icy volcanoes (cryovolcanoes) that follow Enceladus wherever it wanders around its parent planet. The cryovolanoes studding Enceladus are responsible for the frequent repaving of its surface. In 2008, Cassini confirmed that the cryovolanic stream was composed of ordinary water, laced with carbon dioxide, potassium salts, carbon monoxide, and a plethora of other organic materials. Tidal squeezing, caused by Saturn and the nearby sister moons Dione and Tethys, keep the interior of Enceladus pleasantly warm, and its water in a liquid state--thus allowing the cryovolcanoes to keep spewing out their watery eruptions. The most enticing mystery, of course, is determining exactly how much water Enceladus holds. Is there merely a lake-sized body of water, or a sea, or a global ocean? The more water there is, the more it will circulate and churn--and the more Enceladus quivers and shakes, the more likely it is that it can brew up a bit of life.