Source: National Geographic

Distant Dwarf Planet Secrets Revealed

Andrew Fazekas
for National Geographic News
Published November 21, 2012

Orbiting at the frozen edges of our solar system, the mysterious dwarf planet Makemake is finally coming out of the shadows as astronomers get their best view yet of Pluto's little sibling.

Discovered in 2005, Makemake—pronounced MAH-keh MAH-keh after a Polynesian creation god—is one of five Pluto-like objects that prompted a redefining of the term "planet" and the creation of a new group of dwarf planets in 2006.

Just like the slightly larger Pluto, this icy world circles our sun beyond Neptune. Researchers expected Makemake to also have a global atmosphere—but new evidence reveals that isn't the case.

Staring at a Star

An international team of astronomers was able for the first time to probe Makemake's physical characteristics using the European Southern Observatory's three most powerful telescopes in Chile. The researchers observed the change in light given off by a distant star as the dwarf planet passed in front of it.


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