Scientists have unlocked the mystery why dwarf planet Makemake's newly discovered moon is coal black.
On April 27, NASA said that the Hubble telescope spotted a small, coal black moon about 13,000 miles away from Makemake, which is among the five dwarf planets recognized by the International Astronomical Union.
Based on the data gathered from the discovery of Pluto's moon, Charon, astronomers believe that they would be able to acquire transformative measurement of Makemake using MK 2.
"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," said Alex Parker of Southwest Research Institute.
Makemake Thermal Emissions
Past infrared observations of Makemake showed that its surface has thermal emission inconsistencies, even if the surface is composed of a singular material. Initially, astronomers concluded that this could be because of the sun's effect on some isolated dark areas on the dwarf planet's surface and that these warmer places absorb light better than others.
For this hypothesis to be proven, Makemake should be in a special orientation to make its brightness adjust over time as warmer spots come in and out of the view - something that is yet to be seen.
During a reanalysis using new data from Hubble, the team found that the warmer surfaces previously identified were, in fact, the dark surface of its moon, MK 2.
Makemake's Coal Black Moon
Why is MK 2 charcoal black when it orbits around a bright dwarf planet with a surface that reflects as much 82 percent of light?
Astronomers postulated that MK 2's size is a factor. Since it is too small, it does not have the ability to gravitationally clamp onto an icy crust that sublimates under sunlight. That in turn covers the MK 2 in a hydrocarbon film similar to dark material covering present in comets and other Kuiper Belt Objects, thus the moon's coal-black appearance.