Friday, February 8, 2013

Discovery reveals dwarf planet with no atmosphere

A lately discovered dwarf planet located 4 billion miles from Earth, has been revealed to have no atmosphere,,
Thanks to an extremely rare stellar eclipse, where the dwarf planet "Makemake" passed in front of a random distant star, astronomers at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) could determine for the first time whether or not it had an atmosphere. Earlier reports had indicated it did have a very thin atmosphere similar to that found on Pluto, however after analyzing the icy mini planet - which lies in the Kuiper Belt - during the occultation (planetary eclipse), it became clear that this was not the case.

Speaking on the discovery, Dr Jose Ortiz of the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia said: "As Makemake passed in front of the star and blocked it out, the star disappeared and reappeared very suddenly, rather than fading and brightening gradually. " This means the little dwarf planet has no significant atmosphere. It was thought Makemake stood a good chance of having developed an atmosphere. That it has no sign of one at all shows just how much we have yet to learn about these mysterious bodies. Finding out about Makemake's properties for the first time is a big step forward in our study of the select club of icy dwarf planets.

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