Dwarf Planet: Makemake—Shedding Light on a Distant Solar System Object



Fig. 1 Dwarf Planet Makemake—a Kuiper Belt Object (Source—NASA)

Source URL: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/multimedia/display.cfm?Category=Planets&IM_ID=10804

Original Credit: Princeton University


The dwarf planet Makemake was discovered in 2005 by astronomers, M.E. Brown, C.A. Trujillo, and D.L. Rabinowitz utilizing the Palomar Observatory. It takes approximately 310 earth years for Makemake to orbit the Sun, and Makemake is a Kuiper Belt object. The Kuiper Belt is an area in the Solar System known for comets, dwarf planets and other small objects. Its size, shape and whether it possesses moons of its own are currently unclear—and is important in the further understanding of the Solar System’s origins.

The origin of the name Makemake comes from Rapu Nui mythology (of Easter Island)—and it is said that Brown, Trujillo, and Rabinowitz discovered the dwarf planet during the Easter season.


Fig. 2 Mythological Fertility God of the Rapnui Easter Island people—Makemake. (From the source: Petroglyph of Easter Islands Make Make god.)

Source URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Makemake.jpeg


From what is currently understood, the objects of the Solar System underwent a cataclysmic birth approximately 4.5 billion years ago—and what presently resides in the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud are the Solar System’s earliest remnants. Why are astronomers (and astrobiologists) interested in the earliest remnants? Some of the answers that are hoped to be gleaned from their investigations will go part way to answering a “chicken and egg” paradox. If the early remnants contain only “simple” life molecules—glycine, alanine, and the simplest precursors to nucleobases; then it may be inferred that life may have started on Earth. Or, without jargon—life formed on our planet without it arriving from a comet (or meteorite). Then science will (and can) attempt to further address the questions of our planet’s role for life’s conception. (So much so, that our planet’s role for life’s conception may be considered as a proto-womb—if one can excuse the human-like reference.)

Interestingly enough, Makemake seems to be the largest Kuiper Belt dwarf planet that does not have a moon/s. Furthermore, the majority of Kuiper Belt objects have lower albedo numbers due to purported collisions. (The number of Kuiper Belt objects is well over 1000—see the link below). For instance:


Short table of trans-Neptunian object (also considered to be dwarf planets)—the current “Absolute Magnitudes” are listed on the right.

    Eris     -1.1    

    Pluto     -0.8    

    Haumea     0.1    

    Makemake     0.1

    Sedna     1.5    

For a full-list of known trans-Neptunian objects (from the “source”—See the following) Professor Mike Brown–Cal Tech (Please handle with care!)


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