Date:28 June 2016
It’s been discovered that the dwarf planet Makemake, located in the Kuiper Belt, has a moon of its very own. Researchers from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) made the discovery earlier this year and nicknamed the moon MK2.
A thick disc of icy bodies and dwarf planets located between Neptune and the furthest point of Pluto’s orbit make up the Kuiper Belt. The first object in this disc was discovered in 1992, paving the way for the discovery of more than 1 000 other objects.
SwRI astronomer Dr. Alex Parker, the lead author of the paper detailing the discovery, is credited with discovering MK2 after he spotted a faint point of light close to Makemake.
Makemake was discovered on 31 March 2005 and although a lot of the dwarf planet’s physical characteristics are known, MK2’s discovery could lead to more information about the origin of the system.
“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 paper was published in the June 27 issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters.