Makemake is part of the Rapa Nui culture that live on the southeastern Pacific Ocean’s Easter Island.
As the god of fertility, Makemake was the lead god and the creator of all humanity. Makemake is the fourth identified dwarf planet in the outer solar system.
|Discovered By:||Michael E. Brown, Chad Trujillo & David Rabinowitz|
|Discovery Date:||March 31st 2005|
|Equatorial Diameter:||1,434 km|
|Polar Diameter:||1,422 km|
|Mass:||2-5 × 10^21 kg (0.04 Moons)|
|Orbit Distance:||6,850,000,000 km (45.79 AU)|
|Orbit Period:||309.9 years|
It was due to the discovery of Makemake that the decision was made to reduce Pluto from planet status to a dwarf planet.
Pronounced “mah-kee-mah-kee,” in 2005 the dwarf planet was officially called 2005 FY9.
It was first observed at the Palomar Observatory by a team of astronomers who nicknamed it “Easterbunny.” This same team also discovered the dwarf planet of Eris and there is still controversy over their discovery of Haumea, another dwarf planet.
The dwarf planet is bright enough and big enough that even amateur astronomers with higher-end telescopes can see and study Makemake.
When a planet passes in front of a star it’s called an “occultation.” It was due to an occultation that scientists could determine that there wasn’t any atmosphere on Makemake.
In 2015, the Hubble Space Telescope detected a small object in Makemake’s orbit thereby announcing that Makemake had a moon.
Makemake is 870 mi/1,400 km wide, around 2/3 the size of Pluto and the second brightest known object in the outer solar system.
It’s orbit is closer to the sun than another dwarf planet, Eris, and it takes around 310 Earth-years to complete its orbit. Makemake is outside of the range of Pluto.
Observing Makemake, you will note that it has a reddish-brown color. Scientists believe that its surface contains a layer of methane that are potentially in one-centimeter sized pellet form.
They have seen signs of frozen nitrogen as well as frozen ethane. When Makemake passed in front of a star, scientists determined that it lacks any real atmosphere.
They were surprised due to the fact that they thought it was so closely similar to Pluto, which does have a very thin atmosphere.
In the same star passing the scientists calculated the quantity of light that the planet was reflecting and indicated that it’s about the same as dirty snow on Earth.
Except for Ceres, Makemake joins all of the other dwarf planets in their rotation through the Kuiper Belt, which is at the outer edges of the solar system and an area filled with rock and ice bodies.
It’s orbit is pretty big and Makemake goes out around 53 times the distance between the sun and the Earth. One day on Makemake is 22.5 hours, just a little shorter than our hours, and it spins on its axis.
The moon of Makemake has been given the designation of S/2015 (136472) and has a nickname of MK2. It’s around 200 mi/160 km in diameter and is about 13,000 mi/20,900 km from Makemake’s surface.
The Hubble Space Telescope viewed MK2 as being a very dark charcoal color, which surprised scientists.
They have a theory that the moon has such weak gravity that it can’t hold onto any ice and that any reflective ices simply leave and enter space.
Alex Parker of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, CO led the group that did image analysis on MK2. Their preliminary findings indicate that MK2 seems to be edge-on which explains why those that looked directly at the system, missed the moon. MK2 seems to get lost in Makemake’s glare.
Scientists believe that MK2 was the result of a huge impact many years ago, however, others feel that MK2 might have once been a lone object in the Kuiper Belt that was caught in Makemake’s gravity.
The discovery of Makemake, as well as Haumea and Eris created a circumstance that required the definition of dwarf planets.
This resulted in Pluto being downgraded from a planet to a dwarf planet. The 2006 new classification was approved by the IAU (International Astronomical Union).
The definition includes: a planet circles the sun but isn’t orbiting something else, is large enough to be rounded by its own gravity, and has cleared its neighborhood of orbiting bodies.
Pluto didn’t comply with the qualifications as it hasn’t cleared its orbital path debris.