Date: November 24th, 2012
Title: Encore: The Making of Makemake
Podcaster: The Ordinary Guy from the Brains Matter podcast
Organization: Brains Matter
This podcast originally aired on July 1st, 2011
Description: Up until a few years ago, a vast majority of people claimed that their favourite planet was Pluto. Now that there’s been a bit of action, and the dust has settled a bit, let’s take a look into Pluto’s little brother, Makemake.
Bio: The Brains Matter podcast has been producing and communicating science stories and interviews since September 2006. The show is based out of Melbourne, Australia, and takes an everyday person’s perspective of science in easy-to-understand language.
Sponsor: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by — NO ONE. Please consider sponsoring a day or two. Just click on the “Donate” button on the lower left side of this web page, or contact us at email@example.com.
G’day everyone, and welcome to the 1st of July 2011 episode of 365 Days of Astronomy. I’m the Ordinary Guy, from the Brains Matter podcast in Melbourne, Australia. You can find me at www.brainsmatter.com.
It wasn’t that long ago where people learned that the planets were: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Pluto. We all know by now that in 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a Dwarf Planet, thanks in the main to the discovery of Eris. Up until then, chances are, if you asked a child what their favourite planet was, they’d say Pluto. Perhaps Disney had something to do with this favouritism, or perhaps that’s just an excuse – but it was a common answer.
What do the kids of today say? Well, I decided to go and ask the closest under 18, and found my son, who happens to be in grade two. “What’s your favourite planet?” I asked him.
“Makemake,” he responded. Makemake? That’s not even a “proper” planet is it? Well, to be fair, it is a new era, and even my grade 2 son knows about planets and dwarf planets. So let’s have a look into this favourite of his, Makemake.
First of all, you’re probably wondering about the name. “Makemake” – no, it’s not a Disney character. Makemake is the Rapa Nui people’s creator of humanity, and the god of fertility.
It was discovered in 2005 by Mike Brown – who is also infamous for discovering Eris, which caused all of the Pluto kerfuffle, and his team from Caltech, including Chad Trujillo and David Rabinowitz. The discovery of Eris was announced the same day. Makemake, alongside Eris and 2003 EL61 prompted the International Astronomical Union to reconsider their definition of a planet. In June of 2008, the IAU created a category called “Plutoid”, for dwarf planets that existed outside the orbit of Neptune. Pluto, Haumea, Eris, and Makemake were listed as candidates for this category when it was first proposed.
It is thought that Makemake’s surface is covered with methane ice, and is about three-quarters the diameter of Pluto, somewhere in the order of 1,300 to 1,900km in diameter. If you’re wondering how far it is from the sun – consider this. Pluto takes 248 years to orbit the sun, and Haumea takes 283 years to orbit the sun. Makemake’s orbital period is almost 310 years, and that equates to a distance of about 52 astronomical units – yes, 52 times the distance of the Earth to the Sun. If you want that in metric, that’s 7.8 x 10^9 km.
Makemake also has the distinction of being the second brightest object in the Kuiper Belt after Pluto, and it is thought that the surface temperature is about 30 Kelvin. That’s -243 degrees in everyday language. Don’t ask me what that is in farenheit, but let’s just say I shouldn’t really complain about Melbourne winters in comparison.
Unfortunately, unlike it’s siblings Pluto and Eris, it doesn’t have any satellites, but out in the Kuiper belt, you never really are alone.
Anyway, if you’re looking out for a favourite planet, and like my son, you include dwarf planets in your list, consider Makemake. Even if any of the facts I’ve mentioned doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can’t go past one of the best names in the solar system.
If you want to hear more stories on science, curiosities and general knowledge, head over to www.brainsmatter.com.
Bye for now!
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by the New Media Working Group of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. Audio post-production by Preston Gibson. Bandwidth donated by libsyn.com and wizzard media. Web design by Clockwork Active Media Systems. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at 365DaysOfAstronomy.org or email us at info@365DaysOfAstronomy.org. Until tomorrow…goodbye.