Makemake is the second furthest dwarf planet from the Sun and is the third largest dwarf planet in the solar system. Makemake was discovered on March 31st 2005 and was recognized as a dwarf planet by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in July 2008. Until April 2016 Makemake was thought to be the only one of the four outer dwarf planets to not have any moons.
Facts about the Dwarf Planet Makemake
- Makemake could have been discovered earlier.
Makemake is the second brightest Kuiper Belt object after Pluto, theoretically Clyde Tombaugh (discoverer of Pluto) could have detected it during his search for trans-Neptunian planets around 1930. However, Makemake would have been almost impossible to find against the dense background of stars of the Milky Way.
- Makemake has one moon.
Discovered in April 2016 and nicknamed MK 2 (designation S/2015 (136472) 1) it is estimated to be 160 km in diameter. The moon was spotted about 20,000 km from Makemake in observations made by the Hubble Space Telescope. Satellites offer an easy method to measure an object mass, so before the moon’s discovery Makemake’s mass could only be estimated.
- Makemake lacks its expected atmosphere.
Astronomers thought Makemake would have developed an atmosphere similar to Pluto’s, its chance passing in front of a bright star in 2011 revealed it mostly lacks a gas envelope. If present, Makemake’s atmosphere would likley be methane and nitrogen-based.
- Makemake is a classical Kuiper belt object.
This means its orbit lies far enough from Neptune to not be significantly affected by Neptune’s gravity (unlike Pluto) and will remain stable over the age of the Solar System,
- Makemake was named three years after its discovery in 2008.
The name comes from the the creator of humanity and god of fertility in the mythos of the Rapa Nui (the native people of Easter Island). The name was partly chosen due to Makemake’s discovery close to Easter.