Makemake Solar System Body
The solar system comprises an assortment of small bodies that include comets, asteroids, and dwarf planets. Makemake, Eris, Haumea, and Ceres are some of the dwarf planets that have been identified by scientists and astronomers. This paper discusses Makemake in relation to its discovery, characteristics, and comparison to earth.
Discovery of Makemake
Makemake belongs to the outer part of the solar system and was the fourth dwarf planet to be discovered. Makemake is the name of the god of fertility of the Rapa Nui people (Redd, 2016). It was discovered by astronomers Michael Brown, David Rabonowitz, and Chad Trujillo in March 2005 (Redd, 2016), who observed this planet from Palomar Observatory in California. During their study, the astronomers noticed that the planet lacked an atmosphere after its passage over a star, a process known as occultation. The scientists were later able to calculate the light reflected from the data gathered and found it to be the second brightest object of the Kuiper belt (Redd, 2016). The other names of this dwarf planet were 2005 FY9 and Easterbunny. Despite its discovery in 2005, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) recognized it as a dwarf planet only in July 2008 (Space Facts, 2016).
Makemake is a reddish brown dwarf planet that is believed to contain methane, frozen nitrogen, and frozen ethane layers on its surface. This is attributed to the rocky and icy regions of the planet. A satellite associated with this planet known as MK 2 was discovered in April 2016, which was found to have a diameter of approximately 160 km (Redd, 2016). According to Redd (2016), MK 2 is at a distance of approximately 20,900 km (13,000 miles) from Makemake. These observations were possible due to the availability of high-resolution space telescopes and satellites.
Comparison to Earth
Considering these characteristics, various comparisons can be made between Earth and Makemake. Size, orbital period, distance, and rotation among others are some key aspects that can be considered. First, Earth’s diameter is roughly 13,000 km according to Choi (2014), whereas Makemake’s diameter spans to approximately 1400 km. This means that Earth is about nine times the size of Makemake. Second, Earth’s complete revolution (orbital period) is roughly 365 days, whereas Makemake’s is about 310 years. This is because Makemake is far away from the Sun as compared with Earth. Third, this dwarf planet’s rotation period is 22.5 hours (Redd, 2016). On the other hand, Earth’s rotation period is about 24 hours. Makemake’s rotation is much shorter than that of Earth. In relation to distance, Earth is approximately 149,598,262 km away from the Sun, whereas Makemake is approximately 6,850,000,000 km from the Sun (Space Facts, 2016). These statistics explain the reason for the longer revolution and cold temperature of this dwarf body.
The similarities between these planets may include the shape and the fact that they are able to make revolutions and rotations. The only difference is the time taken to complete these activities. Earth has an ellipsoid or spheroid shape, whereas Makemake has been found to have a round shape, as shown in Diagrams 1 and 2, respectively. Considering the characteristics such as revolution, it is interesting to note that a small planet such as Makemake takes over three hundred years just to make a single revolution. With the development of more and more high-resolution telescopes, the study and discovery other solar bodies may be possible in the future.
Choi, C. Q. (2014). Planet Earth: facts about its orbit, atmosphere & size. Space.com. Retrieved from http://www.space.com/54-earth-history-composition-and-atmosphere.html
Redd, N. T. (2016). Makemake: Discovery, orbit & characteristics. Space.com. Retrieved from http://www.space.com/23122-makemake.html
Space Facts. (2016). Makemake facts. Retrieved from http://space-facts.com/makemake/