There are many natural satellites in outer space. Natural satellites are defined as astronomical bodies that exists in the universe. Asteroids and meteors are astronomical bodies. The sun, moon, and planets that orbit around a larger natural body in outer space are also satellites to the larger body such as the sun.
Experts agree that natural satellites were formed out of the same process that formed primary astronomical bodies such as planets. Some posit that the collapse of a proto-planetary disk creates natural satellites while others think two large bodies colliding creates smaller natural satellites. The rotation of some moons take 10 hours while the orbital periods take hundreds of days. Tidal locking also influences a moon’s position. Orbital characteristics range from regular orbit patterns to inclined, eccentric, and retrograde patterns.
Planets and Their Satellites
Jupiter has the highest number of natural satellites in the solar system with 67 moons. It has four massive moons, namely Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, each of which were discovered in 1610 by Galileo. Saturn comes in second with 62 moons of which Titan is the biggest and Rhea second with complex path movements. Uranus is third with 27 moons of which Titania is the biggest with a coplanar orbit. Neptune is fourth with 14 moons of which Triton is the biggest, orbiting in a backward pattern and possesses an atmosphere. Its second biggest moon is Nereid. Pluto is fifth with 5 moons of which Charon is the biggest and is on a tidal locked orbit with Pluto. Mars is sixth with 2 moons. They are Phobos and Deimos named after Greek mythology characters. Haumea is seventh with 2 moons. Hi’iaka and Namaka orbit the dwarf planet Haumea. Earth is eighth with just 1 moon. Makemake, a dwarf planet is ninth with also 1 moon whose name is MK 2 in the Kuiper belt. Eris , a massive dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt is tenth with also 1 moon named, Dysnomia orbiting in a circular pattern.
Human Exploration of Various Moons
The most famous space missions to a natural satellite was to our own moon. On September 14, 1959, the Russian Space program successfully launched spacecraft Luna 2 to land on the moon. Then, in 1966, Luna 9 also landed on the moon. Luna 10 entered the moon’s orbit for 60 days on March 31, 1966. The US Space program began its launch of Apollo moon missions from 1968 to 1972. Apollo 8 and Apollo 10 orbited the moon. In July 1969, US astronaut Neil Armstrong was on Apollo 11 and became the first man to walk on the moon. The Russian Space program also launched several more unmanned missions to the moon that took rock samples from the moon. China, India, Luxembourg, and Japan have also launched several more recent lunar missions.
Future unmanned and robotic missions are planned in conjunction with other nations to further explore the moon. Private entities and companies have also announced plans to launch their own missions including tourist flights. However, more exciting unmanned moon missions have already been launched to explore far moons in our solar system. NASA launched its Galileo mission on October 18, 1989 to study Jupiter’s moons. On July 14, 2015, the US spacecraft New Horizon flew by Pluto and its moon Charon to send back amazing photographs. On June 30, 2004, the US spacecraft Cassini dropped a probe into Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.
Planets With The Largest Number Of Moons
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