Makemake Facts

Makemake is a dwarf planet in Trans-Neptunian region called the Kuiper belt. It is the second brightest dwarf planet after Pluto. It is named after the god of fertility and the creator of humanity in the culture of Rapa Nui. It is the fourth dwarf planet.

Makemake Profile

Interesting Makemake Facts

  • Makemake was discovered in the Palomar Observatory on 31st March 2005 by a team of scientists which was being led by Michael e. Brown.
  • It is named after the god of fertility and the creator of humanity in the culture of Rapa Nui.
  • It was nicknamed as Easter bunny before being officially named.
  • Eris is 52.5 astronomical units away from the sun.
  • It is a part of the Trans-Neptunian region called the Kuiper belt.
  • It has an average radius of about 715 km.
  • It is the second brightest dwarf planet after Pluto.
  • Its surface appears to be redder than that of Eris.
  • It has the radius that can be estimated to be one-ninth to the radius of the earth.
  • If a spacecraft was sent to the dwarf planet Makemake it would take approximately 16 years to reach it.
  • The surface temperatures on the dwarf planet -239 °C or about 30 k, which is extremely low.
  • Makemake is known to have one moon called S/2015 which takes nearly 12 days to complete one orbit around it.
  • S/2015 is sometimes nicknamed as MK 2.
  • It does not have any rings.
  • It does not have a magnetosphere.
  • It has not been visited by any human or man-made spacecraft.
  • No evidence of life has yet been found on the dwarf planet.
  • Makemake has been mentioned in a lot of books, tv shows, films, and even video games.

Makemake

Makemake is a dwarf planet. Makemake caused a lot of uncertainty for scientists, who were confused about how to categorize it i.e. A planet, a dwarf planet or a minor planet. It was also often confused with the dwarf planet, Eris. This caused a lot of debate among scientists.

As defined by the International Aeronautical Union (IAU), a dwarf planet is any celestial body that directly orbits the sun and has enough mass to be controlled by gravitational forces. Thus, the three conditions for a body to be called a planet are to orbit around the sun, to have enough mass and to ‘clear the neighborhood’ around its planet.

Makemake only meets the first two criteria as it has not cleared its neighborhood and hence, it was declared as a dwarf planet.

Since 2008, NASA has acknowledged five dwarf planets in the solar system. They are Ceres, Pluto, Eris, Makemake, and Haumea. Ceres is the only dwarf planet in the asteroid belt. It was considered a planet for many years until it was officially accepted as a dwarf planet. Pluto lies beyond Neptune. Haumea and Makemake were both discovered in 2008. Eris is sometimes called the tenth planet of the solar system.

A dwarf planet is a celestial body or object that falls into the category of neither planets nor natural satellites. There are three main requirements for an object to be considered as a planet. Firstly, they must be orbiting the sun directly. Secondly, they should have considerable mass. Lastly, the must-have cleared the space around it that is they must be gravitationally influential.

Usually, any celestial body that does not meet one of these requirements is considered a dwarf planet. In general dwarf planets do not need the third requirement to be considered as a planet.

The term ‘dwarf planet’ was adopted in the year 2006 when astronomical objects were discovered beyond the orbit of the planet Neptune. According to the International Aeronautical Unit or IAU, there are five recognized dwarf planets in the solar system. They are Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris.

History

Makemake was discovered in the Palomar Observatory on 31st March 2005 by a team of scientists which was being led by Michael e. Brown. It was publicly announced on 29 July 2005. It is named after the god of fertility and the creator of humanity in the culture of Rapa Nui. Before being officially named the dwarf, this planet was sometimes also referred to as the Easter bunny because it was discovered a few days after the festival of Easter.

Unlike the planets of the solar system, the people in ancient times were not aware of the dwarf planet especially the ones lying beyond the Neptunian orbit. This is because of the obvious reason that they were really far away from the sun and the earth and beyond the reach of the technology that was in use at that time. The earliest records of the photograph of the planet (before the discovery of dwarf planet) date back to as early as 1955.

Appearance

In the visible spectrum, Makemake appears to be red in color. It has an appearance that is redder than that of Eris. This could be because of the presence of methane on its surface in abundance.

As it is very far away from the earth, it is quite dim to be seen by the naked eye but bright enough to be viewed through an advanced telescope. However, it is the second brightest dwarf planet after Pluto out of all the five officially identified dwarf planets.

Size

Makemake has a radius of approximately 715 km. Its radius is nine times smaller than that of the Earth.

Limited information is available about the dwarf planet and its moons.

Surface

As mentioned before Makemake appears to be of red color in its appearance. This could be because of the presence of a large amount of methane on its surface as determined by the spectroscopy method. Also, a large amount of ethane and tholins along with some amounts of ethylene, acetylene and other alkanes may also be present on the dwarf planet.

The surface temperatures on the dwarf planet -239°C or about 30 k, which is extremely low as one would expect. This is because of the great distance of the dwarf planet from the sun.

Composition

The most common method used to determine the composition of such bodies is called spectroscopy. When an object light splits into its constituent colors the formation of rainbow takes place. The resulting image formed is called the spectrum.

 As different wavelengths of light are absorbed by different objects when we see the spectrum of a particular object dark lines appear on it. These lines are called absorption lines and the pattern all together is called the absorption spectrum. This is the reason why each object has its own unique absorption spectrum.

Hence judging by the absorption spectrum of different objects we can determine the material of the substance with which it is made. Using the same method for transmitting an object scientist have determined that most of the body in the Kuiper belt have a similar composition. They are a mixture of ice, rock, methane, ammonia and other volatile gases and ices.

These objects have a composition that is very much similar to that of Pluto as well as triton a moon of Saturn. The average temperature in the belt is very low that is 50 kelvins. Most of the objects in this belt would be gaseous if they were closer to the sun.

Orbit & Rotation

Makemake is approximately 7.84 billion kilometers or 52.5 astronomical units away from the sun. It takes 7.7 hours to rotate about its own axis and its period of revolution is 309 years.

It is the second brightest Kuiper belt object after Pluto. It is situated in the constellation called the Coma Berenices.

Magnetic Field

As the dwarf planet is very far from the Earth, we do not have any data to determine whether or not Makemake has a magnetic field. However, the presence of a strong magnetic field is unlikely.

Atmosphere

It was initially assumed that Makemake would also have an atmosphere that is similar to that of the dwarf planet Pluto. However, some evidence proved that Makemake lacks a proper or substantial atmosphere. The pressure above its surface is very low. Methane or nitrogen is expected to be the dominant part of its composition. The conditions on Makemake imply that the nitrogen present on the dwarf planet has depleted significantly over the course of time.

Moons & Rings

Makemake is known to have one natural satellite which is designated as S/2015 or nicknamed as MK 2. Its diameter is estimated to be around 175 km. It has a period of revolution of around 12 days on earth, but it could also be more. It is about 21000 km away from Makemake. It was discovered in 2015 with the help of NASA’s Hubble space telescope.

Makemake has one satellite most of the other objects in the Trans Neptunian region are believed to have more than one natural satellite.

Makemake Exploration

No human being has ever visited Makemake. Makemake is extremely far away from the earth and currently beyond human reach. It would be very difficult to build a spacecraft and send humans to Makemake as the spacecraft would take several years to reach the dwarf planet.

In fact, if a spacecraft to be sent to the dwarf planet is launched today it would take about 16 years to reach it. However human missions to farther planets may become possible in the future as science and technology advance.

Even though we do not know much about Makemake we still have a significant amount of information available about it. Scientists are continuously putting and efforts to discover more about the dwarf planets and trying to make it possible to send spacecrafts there so that we could find out more.

As mentioned before with the advancing science and technology we could send spacecraft to the farther objects of the solar system especially the ones lying beyond the orbit of the planet Neptune. In the future, we could even have spacecraft or space agencies bases on planets like Mars or Jupiter which would make it easier for us to reach the planets that lie too far away from the earth with the help of factors such as distance as well as gravity.

Life on Makemake

No evidence of life has ever been found on Makemake. This could be because of the fact that it is too far away from the sun and hence its surface temperatures are very low. It also has other conditions like an unsuitable atmosphere or extreme phenomena that cannot sustain life as on earth.

Makemake in Pop Culture

Dwarf planets have not been known to mankind for that long a time as compared to the other planets of the solar system. This is because of the fact that most of the dwarf planets are very small in size and are at a great distance from the sun.

Most of them cannot be seen by the naked eye and require the use of an advanced telescope. Ceres, a dwarf planet has found a place in popular culture. Dwarf planets create curiosity in the minds of writers and artists because of how mysterious they are. Hence, they have been mentioned in a lot of books, tv shows, films, and even video games.

Timeline

  • 2005: Makemake is discovered
  • 2008: Makemake is officially declared as a dwarf planet
  • 2008: Makemake is named
  • 2015: A possible moon of Makemake is spotted

References

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