(Image source: European Southern Observatory)

BY STEVEN SPARKMAN
ANCHOR ZACH TOOMBS


It’s the most recently-discovered dwarf planet in our solar system, it’s Pluto’s neighbor, and it has an awesome name: Makemake.

The dwarf planet, named after an Easter Island fertility god, is teaching astronomers a few new things about our solar neighborhood. (Images via NASA)

In 2011, astronomers got a rare chance to watch Makemake’s shadow pass in front of a distant star. The shape of the shadow allowed them to calculate the dwarf planet’s size — about 882 miles in diameter. (Video via Space.com)

But they learned something surprising about Makemake’s atmosphere: it doesn’t seem to have much of one.

Basically, an atmosphere should blur the edges of the shadow, but Makemake’s had sharp edges. (Via Nature)

A researcher tells BBC the find was unexpected. “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 learn about these mysterious bodies.”

Makemake is one of five dwarf planets hanging out around the edges of our solar system. There could be hundreds more like them waiting to be discovered, but New Scientist says so far they’re shaping up to be a unique bunch. (Image via Space.com)

“Astronomers now think Makemake is less dense than Pluto, so it could not hold on to its atmosphere. These new details show that dwarf planets are surprisingly diverse, and may help us better understand how atmospheres form and evolve on rocky worlds.”

The new discoveries are also a chance for a little boasting. Mike Brown, who co-discovered Makemake, says he’s happy the icy world isn’t being overlooked for its bigger siblings anymore.

“Makemake has always been sort of the unloved large Kuiper belt object … We were so swamped with Eris and all the interesting stuff with Haumea that people didn't really give Makemake the attention it deserved.” (Via Scientific American)

Pluto's Neighboring Dwarf Planet Makemake Lacks Atmosphere

by Steven Sparkman
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Transcript
Nov 21, 2012

Pluto's Neighboring Dwarf Planet Makemake Lacks Atmosphere

 

(Image source: European Southern Observatory)

BY STEVEN SPARKMAN
ANCHOR ZACH TOOMBS


It’s the most recently-discovered dwarf planet in our solar system, it’s Pluto’s neighbor, and it has an awesome name: Makemake.

The dwarf planet, named after an Easter Island fertility god, is teaching astronomers a few new things about our solar neighborhood. (Images via NASA)

In 2011, astronomers got a rare chance to watch Makemake’s shadow pass in front of a distant star. The shape of the shadow allowed them to calculate the dwarf planet’s size — about 882 miles in diameter. (Video via Space.com)

But they learned something surprising about Makemake’s atmosphere: it doesn’t seem to have much of one.

Basically, an atmosphere should blur the edges of the shadow, but Makemake’s had sharp edges. (Via Nature)

A researcher tells BBC the find was unexpected. “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 learn about these mysterious bodies.”

Makemake is one of five dwarf planets hanging out around the edges of our solar system. There could be hundreds more like them waiting to be discovered, but New Scientist says so far they’re shaping up to be a unique bunch. (Image via Space.com)

“Astronomers now think Makemake is less dense than Pluto, so it could not hold on to its atmosphere. These new details show that dwarf planets are surprisingly diverse, and may help us better understand how atmospheres form and evolve on rocky worlds.”

The new discoveries are also a chance for a little boasting. Mike Brown, who co-discovered Makemake, says he’s happy the icy world isn’t being overlooked for its bigger siblings anymore.

“Makemake has always been sort of the unloved large Kuiper belt object … We were so swamped with Eris and all the interesting stuff with Haumea that people didn't really give Makemake the attention it deserved.” (Via Scientific American)

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