Makemake (, or as Rapanui ), formal designation (136472) Makemake, is the third-largest known dwarf planet in the Solar System and one of the two largest Kuiper belt objects (KBO) in the classical KBO population. Its diameter is roughly three-quarters that of Pluto. Makemake has no known satellites, which makes it unique among the largest KBOs. Its extremely low average temperature (about 30 K) means its surface is covered with methane, ethane and possibly nitrogen ices.
Initially known as (and later given the minor planet number 136472), it was discovered on March 31, 2005 by a team led by Michael Brown, and announced on July 29, 2005. On June 11, 2008, the IAU included Makemake in its list of potential candidates to be given "plutoid" status, a term for dwarf planets beyond the orbit of Neptune that would place the object alongside Pluto and . Makemake was formally classified as a plutoid in July 2008.
Despite its relative brightness (it is about a fifth as bright as Pluto), Makemake was not discovered until well after many much fainter Kuiper belt objects. Most searches for minor planets are conducted relatively close to the ecliptic (the region of the sky that the Sun, Moon and planets appear to lie in, as seen from Earth), due to the greater probability of finding objects there. Due to its relatively high orbital inclination, and the fact that it was at its farthest distance from the ecliptic at the time of its discovery, in the northern constellation of Coma Berenices, it probably escaped detection from the earlier surveys.
Besides Pluto, Makemake is the only other dwarf planet that was bright enough for Clyde Tombaugh to have possibly detected during his search for trans-Neptunian planets around 1930. At the time of Tombaugh's survey, Makemake was only a few degrees from the ecliptic, near the border of Taurus and Auriga, at an apparent magnitude of 16.0. This position, however, was also very near the Milky Way, and Makemake was almost impossible to find against the dense background of stars. Tombaugh continued searching for some years after the discovery of Pluto, but he failed to find Makemake or any other trans-Neptunian objects.
In July 2008, in accordance with IAU rules for classical Kuiper belt objects, was given the name of a creator deity. The name of Makemake, the creator of humanity and god of fertility in the mythos of the Rapanui, the native people of Easter Island, was chosen in part to preserve the object's connection with Easter.
As of 2008, Makemake is at a distance of 52 AU from the Sun; almost as far from the Sun as it ever reaches on its orbit. Makemake follows an orbit very similar to that of : highly inclined at 29° and a moderate eccentricity of about 0.16. Nevertheless, Makemake's orbit is slightly farther from the Sun in terms of both the semi-major axis and perihelion. Its orbital period is nearly 310 years, more than Pluto's 248 years and Haumea's 285 years. Both Makemake and Haumea are currently far from the ecliptic—the angular distance is almost 29°. Makemake is approaching its 2033 aphelion, while Haumea passed its aphelion in early 1992.
Makemake is classified a classical Kuiper belt object, which means its orbit lies far enough from Neptune to remain stable over the age of the Solar System. Unlike plutinos, which can cross Neptune's orbit due to their 2:3 resonance with the planet, the classical objects have perihelia further from the Sun, free from Neptune’s perturbation. Such objects have relatively low eccentricities (e below 0.2) and orbit the Sun in much the same way the planets do. Makemake, however, is a member of the "dynamically hot" class of classical KBOs, meaning that it has a high inclination compared to others in its population. It is also possible that Makemake is in a 11:6 resonance with Neptune, though further observations will be required to know for sure.
On August 24, 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) announced a formal definition of planet that established a tripartite classification for objects in orbit around the Sun: "small Solar System bodies" were those objects too small for their gravity to have collapsed their surfaces into a rounded shape; "dwarf planets" were those objects large enough to be rounded, but who had yet to clear their orbits of similar-sized objects; "planets" were those objects that were both large enough to be rounded by self-gravity and which had cleared their orbits of similar-sized objects. Under this classification, Pluto, and were reclassified as dwarf planets.
On June 11, 2008, the IAU further elaborated on this classification scheme by creating a subclass of dwarf planet, plutoid, specifically for those dwarf planets found beyond the orbit of Neptune. Eris and Pluto are thus plutoids, while Ceres is not. To be considered a plutoid for naming by the IAU, without knowing whether it has achieved hydrostatic equilibrium, an object must be exceptionally bright, with an absolute magnitude of +1 or less, which meant that only Makemake and Haumea were likely to be included. On July 11, 2008, the IAU/USGS Working Group on Planetary Nomenclature included Makemake in the plutoid class, making it officially both a dwarf planet and a plutoid, alongside Pluto and Eris.
rect 646 1714 2142 1994 The Earth circle 1786 614 142 (136472) Makemake circle 2438 616 155 (136108) Haumea circle 342 1305 137 (90377) Sedna circle 1088 1305 114 (90482) Orcus circle 1784 1305 97 (50000) Quaoar circle 2420 1305 58 (20000) Varuna rect 0 0 2749 1994
rect 646 1714 2142 1994 The Earth
circle 1786 614 142 (136472) Makemake
circle 2438 616 155 (136108) Haumea
circle 342 1305 137 (90377) Sedna
circle 1088 1305 114 (90482) Orcus
circle 1784 1305 97 (50000) Quaoar
circle 2420 1305 58 (20000) Varuna
rect 0 0 2749 1994 desc none
As of July 2008 the rotation period of Makemake was not known, because it exhibits no discernible photometric variations. There two possible reasons for this: Makemake's atmosphere could be frozen to its surface, rendering it fairly homogeneous, or it may be facing Earth pole-on. In the latter case a strong asymmetry is expected in the surface composition: the currently invisible summer hemisphere would have far fewer volatiles on it than the winter hemisphere.
Spectral analysis of Makemake's surface revealed that methane must be present in the form of large grains at least one centimetre in size. In addition large amounts of ethane and tholins may be present as well, most likely created by photolysis of methane by solar radiation. The tholins are probably responsible for the red color of the visible spectrum. Although evidence exists for the presence of nitrogen ice on its surface, at least mixed with other ices, there is nowhere near the same level of nitrogen as on Pluto and Triton, where it composes more than 98 percent of the crust. The relative lack of nitrogen ice suggests that its supply of nitrogen has somehow been depleted over the age of the Solar System.