Wimps Astronomy



Each of the little Space eggs resides within its own ring arc--which is a fragmentary ring of Saturn. One hypothesis states that glittering ice crystals swarming around in the ring arc might be floating down to the surface of Methone, filling in its impact craters or other rough topography. This is something that is thought to have occurred on two other small, icy moons of Saturn--Atlas and Pan. Icy stuff swarming around in Saturn's rings apparently piled up around each moonlet's equator. Discovered on March 31, 2005, by a team of planetary scientists led by Dr. Michael E. Brown of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, Makemake was initially dubbed 2005 FY 9, when Dr. Brown and his colleagues, announced its discovery on July 29, 2005. The team of astronomers had used Caltech's Palomar Observatory near San Diego to make their discovery of this icy dwarf planet, that was later given the minor-planet number of 136472. Makemake was classified as a dwarf planet by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in July 2008. Dr. Brown's team of astronomers had originally planned to delay announcing their discoveries of the bright, icy denizens of the Kuiper Belt--Makemake and its sister world Eris--until additional calculations and observations were complete. However, they went on to announce them both on July 29, 2005, when the discovery of Haumea--another large icy denizen of the outer limits of our Solar System that they had been watching--was announced amidst considerable controversy on July 27, 2005, by a different team of planetary scientists from Spain. The scientists also ruled out the possibility that the mysterious features actually exist on Titan's surface in the form of frozen methane rain or icy lava erupted from cryovolcanoes. Such surface features would show a different chemical signature and would be visible for much longer periods of time than the bright features observed in this study. The bright features were visible from time spans of only 11 hours to five weeks.