NASA Outer Space Camera Live



Makemake is about a fifth as bright as Pluto. However, despite its comparative brightness, it was not discovered until well after a number of much fainter KBOs had been detected. Most of the scientific hunts for minor planets are conducted relatively close to the region of the sky that the Sun, Earth's Moon, and planets appear to lie in (the ecliptic). This is because there is a much greater likelihood of discovering objects there. Makemake is thought to have evaded detection during earlier searches because of its relatively high orbital inclination, as well as the fact that it was at its greatest distance from the ecliptic at the time of its discovery--in the northern constellation of Coma Berenices. Astronomers have known for years that the temperatures of the lunar near-side are higher than those on the far-side. This is because the abundances of the heat- producing elements uranium and thorium are greater on the near-side than on the far-side. In addition, these higher temperatures are a consequence of the fact that most of the volcanic eruptions occurred on the lunar near-side. Astronomers are still debating Titan's origin. However, its intriguing atmosphere does provide a hint. Several instruments aboard the Huygens spacecraft measured the isotopes nitrogen-14 and nitrogen-15 in Titan's atmosphere. The instruments revealed that Titan's nitrogen isotope ratio most closely resembles that seen in comets that exist in the remote Oort Cloud--which is a sphere composed of hundreds of billions of icy comet nuclei that circle our Star at the amazing distance of between 5,000 and 100,000 AU. This shell of icy objects extends half way to the nearest star beyond our own Sun.