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Top 10 Strangest Things in Our Solar System

VO: Joshua Karpati WRITTEN BY: Nick Roffey

Script written by Nick Roffey

The Earth is a tiny speck in a sea both strange and spectacular. From the Death Star Moon, to Venus, Earth's Hellish Twin, to Io’s Supervolcanoes, these incredible occurrences baffle and amaze. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Strangest Things in Our Solar System.

Special thanks to our user Joao S for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Wonders+of+The+Solar+System.

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Transcript
Script written by Nick Roffey

Top 10 Strangest Things in Our Solar System


The Earth is a tiny speck in a sea both strange and spectacular. Welcome to Watchmojo.com, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Strangest Things in Our Solar System. For this list, we're looking at unusual objects and phenomena within the boundaries of our busy and bizarresolar system.

#10: Mimas, the Death Star Moon

We’ve projected the familiar onto the great unknown for millennia. In stars, planets, and moons, we’ve seen gods, animals, even human faces . . . And now, fully armed and operational battle stations. Saturn boasts at least 62 moons and over 150 moonlets, some of which plough paths in the icy particles of its rings. But Mimas stands out both for being the smallest known astronomical body rounded from self-gravitation, and the huge impact crater 81 miles across that dominates its surface... and seems strangely familiar. The impact was so powerful it must have almost smashed Mimas to pieces, and possibly produced the fractures visible on the opposite side.

#9: Venus, Earth's Hellish Twin

Venus’ infernal, scorched surface is often compared to Hell. Sulfuric acid clouds shroud the planet, and hot winds scour lifeless, barren deserts. If you stepped out onto the surface, you’d be crushed by the dense air pressure and burn up in searing temperatures of close to 900°F. Yet Venus is also a lot like Earth . . . and could be a prophetic image of our future. It’s similar to Earth in size, composition, and proximity to the Sun, and billions of years ago might have harbored liquid water on its surface, until a runaway greenhouse effect cooked the planet.

#8: Coronal Mass Ejections

The Sun has burnt steadily away for 4.6 billion years. But its surface is far from peaceful. Twisting magnetic fields wrack the outer shell, triggering flares and eruptions of gaseous fountains and long, fiery filaments. These columns of magnetized plasma loop and sometimes launch out into the solarwind at speeds of more than 7 million miles per hour. Called coronal mass ejections, the freed solar material can cause geomagnetic storms on Earth, damage satellites, and manifest as spectacular aurorae at the poles.

#7: Io’s Supervolcanoes

When you think of moons, you might think of white, dusty plains, and empty craters. Consider, then, Jupiter’s moon Io. The most geologically active body in our solar system, Io is riddled with over 400 active volcanoes, whose explosions coat the surface in rich yellows, reds, and greens. This coating of silicates and sulfurous material has earned Io the moniker “the pizza moon”, and also potentially makes it the stinkiest object in the solar system. Its volcanic activity is the result of tidal heating, as Io is pulled between the colossal gravity of Jupiter and the planet's outer moons.

#6: Saturn’s Hexagon

Saturn is best known for its rings. But these aren’t the gas giant’s only unusual features. A massive, hexagonal jetstream churns around the north pole, with winds inside that whip past at over 330 miles an hour. First discovered in 1988 when scientists reviewed images from Voyager’s flyby earlier inthe decade, the cloud pattern was confirmed again by Cassini in 2006. As if the neat geometric shape wasn’t bizarre enough, between 2012 and 2016 it changed color from blue to gold. We know little about what generates the jetstream’s unique shape, making Saturn’s Hexagon one of the strangestand most mysterious phenomena in the solar system.

#5: Triton’s Cryovolcanoes

Triton, Neptune’s largest moon, is a world of ice. But like Io, it’s also geologically active. The satellite’s south polar cap is an intricate landscape of troughs, ridges and streaks created by cryovolcanoes that shoot plumes of nitrogen gas and ice miles into the air. The eruptions of these “ice volcanoes” spread dark smears of dust across the surface and can continue for more than a year. The moon’s strange volcanism might also be responsible for its famed “cantaloupe terrain”, an area of melon-like dimpled regions in the moon’s western hemisphere.

#4: Enceladus' Plumes

Imagine a towering plume of water and ice particles shooting up hundreds of miles overhead. Now picture a hundred of these going off at the same time. That’s what Cassini found on Enceladus’ southern polar region in 2005. Saturn’s small moon should be inactive and dead. But instead, cryovolcanic jets spew water from tiger stripe-like fissures into space - providing the material for one of Saturn’s outer rings. Scientists think gravitational forces explain some of the heat required to maintain a subsurface ocean . . . but they also think that there must be something else warming the moon up too.

#3: The Lakes of Titan

A river winds through dunes toward the shores of a smooth, clear lake. As clouds roll in and thunder rumbles, it begins to rain . . . The surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is strangely Earth-like. Titan has a dense nitrogen atmosphere, and is the only other object in space known to have stable bodies of liquid on its surface. But swimming in them would be tough. Composed of liquid methane and ethane, the lakes of Titan are less dense than water, and hundreds of degrees below zero. Although the moon lacks liquid water, astrobiologists speculate that hypothetical methanogenic life forms might call Titan home.

#2: The Great Red Spot, Jupiter's Perpetual Storm

The gigantic storm in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere has raged for centuries. Astronomers observed it in 1830, and possibly as far back as 1665. Large enough to swallow Earth, and have room for more, the Great Red Spot is a colossal anticyclonic maelstrom with winds that peak at over 400 miles an hour. Its frantic swirl is fueled by turbulent bands of ammonia clouds that spin around the planet in both directions. The reason for its reddish color remains unsure, but its persistence is partially due to the fact that Jupiter has no solid ground to slow the storm down.

Before we reveal the identity of our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:

Hyperion, the Sponge Moon
The Tumbling Cigar-Shaped Dwarf Planet Haumea
Iapetus, the Two-Tone Moon

#1: The Hidden Ocean of Europa

On the surface, Europa is smooth and dead. But it’s a moon with a secret, or at least so scientists hope. Beneath miles of icy crust, a vast subsurface ocean 60 miles deep might lie hidden inside the Jovian moon. Evidence includes the cracks that criss-cross its surface, possibly due to internal tides, and the sparsity of impact craters, which suggest the youthful surface has been replenished by geological processes thanks to tidal heating. Since there’s a chance extraterrestrial microbes might reside near possible hydrothermal vents inside the ocean, scientists are keen to learn more, and both the ESA and NASA are currently planning missions to Europa, hoping to confirm the existence of a hidden ocean once and for all.


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