Makemake: Dwarf Planet’s Secrets Revealed
A dwarf planet’s secrets are being revealed after it traveled out of the shadows, allowing astronomers to get their best view yet of a planet they call Pluto’s sibling.
The dwarf planet, named Makemake after a Polynesian creation god, is slightly smaller than Pluto and was one of the reasons its sibling was reclassified, reports National Geographic.
Just like Pluto, the dwarf planet Makemake circles our sun beyond Neptune. But researchers received an unexpected surprise when they discovered the planet doesn’t have a global atmosphere.
An international team of astronomers was able to uncover the dwarf planet’s secrets, probing its physical characteristics using the European Southern Observatory’s three most powerful telescopes, located in Chile. Hose Luis Ortiz, lead author of the study and an astronomer at the Instituto de Astrofisica Andalucia in Spain, stated:
“These events are extremely difficult to predict and observe, but they are the only means of obtaining accurate knowledge of important properties of dwarf planets.”
Phys.org notes that the dwarf planet’s secrets have been hard to discover because it lacks moons and it is a long ways away from the Earth. The team’s observations have shed light on some of its characteristics, like its size and lack of atmosphere. Ortiz explained:
“It was thought that Makemake had a good chance of having developed an atmosphere — that it has no sign of one at all shows just how much we have yet to lean about these mysterious bodies. Finding out Makemake’s properties for the first time is a big step forward in our study of the select club of icy dwarf planets.”
Astronomers hope that, in time, all of the dwarf planet’s secrets will be revealed.