Magellan Space Probe



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. Titan has three large seas. However, the seas of Titan are not filled with water, but are filled instead with swirling liquid hydrocarbons. All three of Titan's exotic seas are close to its north pole, and they are surrounded by many smaller hydrocarbon-filled lakes in the northern hemisphere. The Solar System forms a tiny part of the Milky Way Galaxy, a vast conglomeration of stars and planets. What makes astronomy so thrilling is that despite its size, the Milky Way is not the only galaxy in the universe. There are hundreds of billions of galaxies out there, probably more. The closest galaxy to our own Milky Way is Andromeda. Now, brace yourself for the distance: it is 2.3 million light years away. One of the most exciting phenomena for astronomers is the black hole. It is an area of the universe where the concentration of mass is so massive (no pun intended) that the gravitational pull it generates sucks in everything around it. Everything includes light. Remember that the escape velocity for any object in the universe is the speed required to escape the objects gravitational pull. The escape velocity for the Earth is slightly over 11 kilometers per hour while for the Moon is 2.5 kilometers per second. Well for a black hole, the escape velocity exceeds the speed of light. That is how strong the pull is.