The Moon of Makemake



The moon of Makemake, temporarily designated S/2015 (136472) 1 and nicknamed MK 2 (MK2), is small without the mass/self-gravity necessary to assume a spherical shape.

Observations in April 2015 by the team of Alex Parker, Marc Buie, Will Grundy and Keith Noll, using the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) led to the moon's discovery. Details (preliminary) were released to the astronomical community on 26 April, 2016, via the Minor Planet Electronic Circulars (MPECs).

Alex Parker of Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado, leader of the team that analyzed the Hubble images, said the orbit of MK 2 (around Makemake) appears to be aligned edge-on to Earth. [1] This along with MK 2's diameter of only 160 km (100 mi) and its poor reflectivity (it's the color of charcoal) makes observation/analysis difficult—more so when you factor in the close proximity (21,000 km) and glare of its icy companion. (Makemake is currently visually the second brightest known object in the Kuiper belt, [2] thirteen hundred times brighter than MK 2.)

More observations are needed and could be scheduled as early as this summer but early next year is more likely.


[1] The shape of the moon's orbit can help determine its origin. A tight circular orbit leans toward a collision (between Makemake and a KBO), a wide elongated orbit leans toward capture (of a KBO).

[2] The Kuiper belt is a region of the outer Solar System
populated by billions of rock-ice objects. It reaches from the orbit of Neptune (30 AU) outward to approximately 55 AU.




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