NASA Mercury Program Buttons



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. Christian folklore claims the Man in the Moon is Cain, the eternal Wanderer, doomed forever to circle the Earth. In addition, there is a Talmudic tradition that says it is the face of Jacob etched out on the gleaming lunar disk. "Ganymede's ocean might be organized like a Dagwood sandwich," commented Dr. Steve Vance in a May 1, 2014 statement. Dr. Vance, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, went on to explain the weird moon's resemblance to the Blondie cartoon character's famous multi-layered sandwiches. The study, headed by Dr. Vance, provides new theoretical indications for the team's "club sandwich" model, originally proposed in 2013. The research appears in the journal Planetary and Space Science.