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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Miniscule Makemake

Miniscule Makemake

Until a few years ago, we believed our Solar System contained nine planets. The discovery of an object called Eris in 2005 changed all that. Now we have eight planets, and an ever-growing family of dwarf planets. The third largest, and second brightest, of these is Makemake:

- Makemake was discovered on March 31, 2005, by a team led by Mike Brown at the California Institute of Technology. Its discovery was announced July 29, 2005.

- Makemake is located in the region of space beyond the planet Neptune, known as the scattered disc. The dwarf planet is currently about 52 Astronomical Units from the Sun, though its average distance is 45 AUs. One AU is equal to the distance between the Earth and the Sun — about 92,957,000 miles!

- It takes Makemake approximately 310 years to orbit the sun. Scientists don’t yet know how long it takes it to rotate once on its axis.

- The surface of Makemake is believed to be similar to Pluto’s, comprised mainly of rock and methane ice.

- At about 845 miles in diameter, Makemake is only slightly smaller than Pluto, and is the third largest known trans-Neptunian object in our solar system.

- Makemake, which is pronounced “mahkay mahkay,” is named after the fertility god of the Rapanui, the native people of Easter Island. The name was chosen in keeping with the tradition of naming planets after mythological deities, and because the object was discovered shortly after Easter.

- Makemake has no known moons.

- The average temperature on Makemake is a frosty -405° F!

- Because of its small size, Makemake has only a very thin atmosphere comprised of methane and nitrogen gasses. Ice on its surface sublimates directly into vapor and escapes into space.

- Makemake, like most dwarf planets, can only be seen through very high-powered telescopes. It is the second brightest Kuiper belt object, after Pluto.

Illustration courtesy of R. Hurt (Spitzer Science Center), JPL, NASA.


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