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Did You Know? Dwarf Planet MakeMake

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Did You Know? Dwarf Planet MakeMake

Discovered on March 31, 2005 by Michael Brown and his team at the Palomar Observatory, the dwarf planet, Makemake, is the third largest dwarf planet in the solar system (perhaps the largest Kuiper belt object -wikipedia), with a diameter that is about 2/3 the size of Pluto.

Originally known as 2005 FY9, the discovery was announced to the public on July 29, 2005. On June 11, 2008 Makemake was included in the list of potential candidates for the category “plutoid“. Makemake was formally classified as plutoid in July 2008.

Despite the relative brightness of the dwarf planet (it is about a fifth as bright as Pluto), Makemake was discovered only after the discovery of many fainter Kuiper belt objects. It probably escaped detection during the earlier surveys due to its relatively high orbital inclination, and the fact that it was at its farthest distance from the ecliptic at the time of its discovery, in the northern constellation of Coma Berenices.
Makemake is currently 52.3 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun. Makemake follows an orbit very similar to that of Haumea: highly inclined at 29° and a moderate eccentricity of about 0.16. Its orbital period is nearly 310 years more than Pluto’s 248 years and Haumea’s 283 years.
The Dwarf planet is currently visually the second-brightest Kuiper belt object after Pluto, having a March opposition apparent magnitude of 16.7 in the constellation Coma Berenices. This is bright enough to be visible using a high-end amateur telescope. From the 2011, Makemake’s diameter has been measured to be (1502 ± 45) × (1430 ± 9) km. This is slightly larger than Haumea, making it likely the third largest known trans-Neptunian object after Eris and Pluto. The atmosphere seems to be similar to that of Pluto, containing methane and nitrogen. 2005 FY9 is a “lonely” planet, no satellites have been detected around it so far.

Interesting stuff

The Name: The provisional designation 2005 FY9 was given to Makemake when the discovery was made public. Before that, the discovery team used the codename “Easterbunny” for the object, because of its discovery shortly after Easter. In July 2008, in accordance with IAU rules for classical Kuiper belt objects, 2005 FY9 was given the name of a creator deity. The name of Makemake, the creator of humanity and god of fertility in the mythos of the Rapanui, the native people of Easter Island, was chosen in part to preserve the object’s connection with Easter.


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