A Dark Moon Orbiting Makemake Discovered In The Kuiper Belt

Posted: Jun 29 2016, 6:17am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News


A Dark Moon Orbiting Makemake Discovered in the Kuiper Belt
A SwRI-led team analyzed data from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 to discover a small, dark moon around the dwarf planet Makemake. The image shows different views of the Makemake system taken two days apart. The moon over Makemake is faint but visible on the left, but completely lost in the glare of the parent dwarf on the right. Image Courtesy of NASA/Hubble WFC3/SwRI/Alex Parker
  • Discovery of Moon orbiting Makemake in the Kuiper Belt

A discovery has been made regarding a moon which is currently orbiting Makemake in the Kuiper Belt. Dr. Alex Parker of the Southwest Research Institute was responsible for this finding.

A team of researchers from the Southwest Research Institute has made quite a discovery. Led by Dr. Alex Parker, they spotted a small dot of light next to the planet Makemake. It is a dark moon and is very tricky in its appearance. As for Makemake, it is one of four dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt. This area lies at the edge of our solar system.

The study was published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters and it bore the title “Discovery of a Makemakean Moon”. 

This discovery clearly shows that it is a jungle out there. “Makemake’s moon proves that there are still wild things waiting to be discovered, even in places people have already looked,” said Dr. Alex Parker, lead author of the paper and the SwRI astronomer credited with discovering the satellite.

New findings will keep turning up despite man’s crazy quest to label everything he can gets his hands (or eyes) on. Though this area had been looked at before by astronomers, now this new moon has been found which is indeed quite a big surprise. Parker used Hubble’s camera in order to spot this moon. The moon is 1300 times as dark as the planet. 

Due to a technical glitch, the moon had escaped detection. It had been hidden from view thanks to the intense glare of the ice-covered dwarf planet.

The planet known as Makemake is quite a big heavenly body and it is very bright to boot. It comes only second to Pluto in the Kuiper Belt. This moon is just a 100 miles in diameter.

Meanwhile, its host planet is 870 miles in diameter. That is quite a contrast. Makemake was seen for the first time 11 years ago. It resembles a football in consistency and is covered in a frigid layer of methane.  

Thanks to the discovery of the moon, Makemake’s mass and density may be thoroughly gauged. This will lend further clues as to the beginnings and evolution of this system of planets and moons in the Kuiper Belt.

“With a moon, we can calculate Makemake’s mass and density,” Parker said. “We can contrast the orbits and properties of the parent dwarf and its moon, to understand the origin and history of the system. We can compare Makemake and its moon to other systems, and broaden our understanding of the processes that shaped the evolution of our solar system.”

The discovery also leads us to speculate whether other similar moons or planetoids may not be extant in the region. Past collisions may have been responsible for these moons separating from their mother planets and going into orbital motion around them. Such intermittent collisions are often a nearly universal feature of heavenly bodies.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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