Hubble Space Nebula



Makemake is a classical KBO. This means that its orbit is situated far enough away from Neptune to remain in a stable stage over the entire age of our more than 4 billion year old Solar System. Classical KBOs have perihelia that carry them far from the Sun, and they are also peacefully free from Neptune's perturbing influence. Such objects show relatively low eccentricities and circle our Star in a way that is similar to that of the major planets. However, Makemake is a member of what is referred to as a "dynamically hot" class of classical KBOs, which instead display a high inclination when compared to other classical KBOs. This gigantic "King of Planets" is considered by some astronomers to be a "failed star". It is about as large as a gas giant planet can be, and still be a planet. It is composed of approximately 90% hydrogen and 10% helium, with small amounts of water, methane, ammonia, and rocky grains mixed into the brew. If any more material were added on to this immense planet, gravity would hug it tightly--while its entire radius would barely increase. A baby star can grow to be much larger than Jupiter. However, a true star harbors its own sparkling internal source of heat--and Jupiter would have to grow at least 80 times more massive for its furnace to catch fire. The discovery of a moon for Makemake may have solved one perplexing puzzle concerning this distant, icy object. Earlier infrared studies of the dwarf planet showed that while Makemake's surface is almost entirely frozen and bright, some areas seem to be warmer than other areas. Astronomers had suggested that this discrepancy may be the result of our Sun warming certain dark patches on Makemake's surface. However, unless Makemake is in a special orientation, these mysterious dark patches should cause the ice dwarf's brightness to vary substantially as it rotates. But this amount of variability has not been observed.