Images of Black Holes NASA



Imagine, a frigid, distant shadow-region in the far suburbs of our Solar System, where a myriad of twirling icy objects--some large, some small--orbit our Sun in a mysterious, mesmerizing phantom-like ballet within this eerie and strange swath of darkness. Here, where our Sun is so far away that it hangs suspended in an alien sky of perpetual twilight, looking just like a particularly large star traveling through a sea of smaller stars, is the Kuiper Belt--a mysterious, distant deep-freeze that astronomers are only now first beginning to explore. Makemake is a denizen of this remote region, a dwarf planet that is one of the largest known objects inhabiting the Kuiper Belt, sporting a diameter that is about two-thirds the size of Pluto. In April 2016, a team of astronomers announced that, while peering into the outer limits of our Solar System, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope (HST) discovered a tiny, dark moon orbiting Makemake, which is the second brightest icy dwarf planet--after Pluto--in the Kuiper Belt. Dr. Carolyn Porco, a planetary scientist and leader of the Imaging Science team for Cassini, explained to the press in March 2012 that "More than 90 jets of all sizes near Enceladus's south pole are spraying water vapor, icy particles, and organic compounds all over the place. Cassini has flown several times now through this spray and has tasted it. And we have found that aside from water and organic material, there is salt in the icy particles. The salinity is the same as that of Earth's oceans." The Cassini Imaging Team discovered Methone (pronounced me-thoh-nee) on June 1, 2004. This tiny moon orbits between two of Saturn's mid-sized icy moons, Mimas and Enceladus, at a radius of about 194,000 kilometers (120,456 miles) from its planet. Astronomers have suggested two differing theories to explain the presence of Methone and two other small sister moons, Pallene and Anthe. The first theory indicates that the three little moons may have fragmented off of either Mimas or Enceladus. The second theory, on the other hand, suggests that all five moons--the three small moons and the two mid-size ones--may be the sad remnants of a larger menagerie of moons that floated around in that area--which is situated close to Saturn. Methone orbits its gigantic parent planet in 24 hours.