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article imageNASA detects new moon in our solar system

By Tim Sandle     May 8, 2016 in Science
Houston - A new moon around a dwarf planet has been detected beyond the reaches of Pluto. This has been detected by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft.
The new dwarf planet is very small, smaller than Pluto with an 870-mile diameter. It shares the climatic conditions of Pluto, being very cold. The planet is called Makemake (sometimes abbreviated to MK 2.) It now appears that this dwarf planet has a moon. The presence of the moon has been confirmed by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Both the planet and its moon are located in the Kuiper Belt. The belt is a circumstellar disc (an astronomical term for a ring-shaped accumulation of matter composed of gas, dust, planetesimals, asteroids or collision fragments in orbit around a star), located past Neptune. The belt consists mainly of small bodies (asteroids), or remnants from the Solar System's formation.
The oddly named Makemake (minor-planet designation 136472 Makemake) is a dwarf planet and so far it is the largest Kuiper belt object detected. The surface of the planet is covered with methane, ethane, and nitrogen ices. The dwarf planet was discovered in 2005 during Easter. This explains the origins of the planet’s name: Makemake was the creator of humanity and god of fertility according to the Rapa Nui, the native people of Easter Island.
The newly discovered moon is very small, with a diameter of only 100 miles across. This makes it around 1/9th of the diameter of its host dwarf planet. One reason why it was hard to detect is because the moon is very faint, some 1,300 times fainter than the parent planet.
Interviewed by Laboratory Roots, Alex Parker of Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado, stated: “The discovery of this moon has given us an opportunity to study Makemake in far greater detail than we ever would have been able to without the companion.”
The moon could reveal more information once the new James Webb Space Telescope is placed into orbit around the Earth. This new telescope is so powerful it can, in theory, detect the light from the first stars to shine in the universe. This is due to the telescope's very large mirror, which has a width of 6.5 meters.
More about New moon, Solar system, Pluto, NASA, Makemake
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