Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

IAU0806: Fourth Dwarf Planet Named Makemake
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Jul 22, 2008

Like other plutoids, Makemake is located in a region beyond Neptune that is populated with small Solar System bodies (often referred to as the transneptunian region).

Members of the International Astronomical Union's Committee on Small Body Nomenclature (CSBN) and the IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN) have decided to name the newest member of the plutoid family Makemake, and have classified it as the fourth dwarf planet in our Solar System and the third plutoid.

Makemake (pronounced MAH-keh MAH-keh) is one of the largest objects known in the outer Solar System and is just slightly smaller and dimmer than Pluto, its fellow plutoid. The dwarf planet is reddish in colour and astronomers believe the surface is covered by a layer of frozen methane.

Like other plutoids, Makemake is located in a region beyond Neptune that is populated with small Solar System bodies (often referred to as the transneptunian region). The object was discovered in 2005 by a team from the California Institute of Technology led by Mike Brown and was previously known as 2005 FY9 (or unofficially "Easterbunny").

It has the IAU Minor Planet Center designation (136472). Once the orbit of a small Solar System body or candidate dwarf planet is well determined, its provisional designation (2005 FY9 in the case of Makemake) is superseded by its permanent numerical designation (136472) in the case of Makemake.

The discoverer of a Solar System object has the privilege of suggesting a name to the IAU, which judges its suitability. Mike Brown says: "We consider the naming of objects in the Solar System very carefully. Makemake's surface is covered with large amounts of almost pure methane ice, which is scientifically fascinating, but really not easily relatable to terrestrial mythology. Suddenly, it dawned on me: the island of Rapa Nui.

"Why hadn't I thought of this before? I wasn't familiar with the mythology of the island so I had to look it up, and I found Makemake, the chief god, the creator of humanity, and the god of fertility. I am partial to fertility gods. Eris, Makemake, and 2003 EL61 were all discovered as my wife was 3-6 months pregnant with our daughter.

"I have the distinct memory of feeling this fertile abundance pouring out of the entire Universe. Makemake was part of that." WGPSN and CSBN accepted the name Makemake during discussions conducted per email.

Makemake holds an important place in the Solar System because it, along with Eris and 2003 EL61, was one of the objects whose discovery prompted the IAU to reconsider the definition of a planet and to create the new group of dwarf planets.

Visually, it is the second brightest transneptunian object, following after Pluto, and is bright enough to be seen through a high-end amateur telescope (a peak magnitude of roughly 16.5). Mike Brown explains: "The orbit is not particularly strange, but the object itself is big. Probably about 2/3 the size of Pluto."

The other three dwarf planets are Ceres, Pluto and Eris. However, Ceres is not a member of the distinctive plutoid group because its orbit is smaller than Neptune's (Ceres is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter).

The word Makemake is Polynesian in origin and is the name of the creator of humanity and the god of fertility in the mythology of the South Pacific island of Rapa Nui or the Easter Island. He was the chief god of the Tangata manu bird-man cult and was worshiped in the form of sea birds, which were his incarnation. His material symbol was a man with a bird's head.


Related Links
The million outer planets of a star called Sol

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Makemake -- or Easter bunny -- enters book of space names
Paris (AFP) July 15, 2008
Pluto - downgraded two years ago to the status of a dwarf planet - has an exotically-named chum on the fringes of the Solar System. The Paris-based International Astronomical Union has decided to honour a Kuiper Belt object, 2005 FY9, with the name of Makemake, after the creator of humanity and the god of fertility in the Rapa Nui culture of Easter Island. ... read more

ILO Instrument On Odyssey Moon's Google Lunar X PRIZE Mission

Online Casino Reports Bets On Lunar Gambling

Brown-Led Team Finds Evidence Of Water In Lunar Interior

China Almost Done With Map Of Moon Surface

Mars Sample Return: Bridging Robotic And Human Exploration

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander Works Through the Night

NASA Studies Earth's High Arctic For Evidence Of Life On Early Mars

A Workday On Mars Is More Than 9-to-5:40

UCF Project Selected For NASA Explorer Mission

UK Space Competition Unearths Young Talent

Magellan Aerospace Wins Lockheed Martin Orion Contract

House Passes S And T Bills Commemorating NASA's 50th Anniversary, First Woman In Space

Shenzhou's Unsuitable Dilemma

China's Long March 2F Rocket Ready For Trip To Launch Center

Shenzhou 7 Shipped To Launch Center For October Launch

China's Shenzhou VII Spacecraft Flown To Launch Center For October Takeoff

ISS Crew Inspired By Vision And Dreams Of Jules Verne

Space chiefs ponder ISS transport problem, post-2015 future

Space Station A Test-Bed For Future Space Exploration

Two Russian cosmonauts begin new space walk

AMC-21 Is Delivered To Spaceport

Sea Launch Delivers Echostar 11 To Orbit

Countdown Underway For The Launch Of The Echostar XI Satellite

Sea Launch Sets Sail For EchoStar XI Launch

Chemical Clues Point To Dusty Origin For Earth-Like Planets

Astronomers discover clutch of 'super-Earths'

Vanderbilt Astronomers Getting Into Planet-Finding Game

NASA Selects MIT-Led Team To Develop Planet-Searching Satellite

APL-Operated Midcourse Space Experiment Ends

Pre-Design Of Laser Weapon Control System Completed

Tree Branching Key To Efficient Flow In Nature And Novel Materials

Virtual World Is Sign Of Future For Scientists And Engineers

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement