The tiny moon--which for now has been designated S/2015 (136472) 1, and playfully nicknamed MK 2, for short--is more than 1,300 times dimmer than Makemake itself. MK 2 was first spotted when it was about 13,000 miles from its dwarf planet parent, and its diameter is estimated to be about 100 miles across. Makemake is 870 miles wide, and the dwarf planet, which was discovered over a decade ago, is named for the creation deity of the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island.
"Confirmation that the chemical energy for life exists within the ocean of a small moon of Saturn is an important milestone in our search for habitable worlds beyond Earth," commented Dr. Linda Spilker in the April 13, 2017 NASA Press Release. Dr. Spilker is Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
The team of astronomers used the same HST technique to observe the little moon as they did for discovering the small moons of Pluto in 2006, 2011, and 2012. Several earlier hunts around Makemake had not succeeded in spotting it. "Our preliminary estimates show that the moon's orbit seems to be edge on, and that means that often when you look at the system you are going to miss the moon because it gets lost in the bright glare of Makemake," commented Dr. Alex Parker in an April 28, 2016 Hubble Press Release. Dr. Parker, who led the image analysis for the observations, is of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.