NASA Comet Diagram computing paths to asteroids helps find future exploration Diagram NASA Comet

NASA Comet Diagram computing paths to asteroids helps find future exploration Diagram NASA Comet

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Makemake, like Pluto, shows a red hue in the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The near-infrared spectrum is marked by the existence of the broad methane absorption bands--and methane has also been observed on Pluto. Spectral analysis of Makemake's surface shows that its methane must be present in the form of large grains that are at least one centimeter in size. In addition to methane, there appears to be large quantities of ethane and tholins as well as smaller quantities of ethylene, acetylene, and high-mass alkanes (like propane)--most likely formed as a result of the photolysis of methane by solar radiation. The tholins are thought to be the source of the red color of the visible spectrum. Even though there is some evidence for the existence of nitrogen ice on Makemake's frozen surface, at least combined with other ices, it is probably not close to the same abundance of nitrogen seen on Pluto and on Triton. Triton is a large moon of the planet Neptune that sports a retrograde orbit indicating that it is a captured object. Many astronomers think that Triton is a wandering refugee from the Kuiper Belt that was captured by the gravity of its large, gaseous planet. It is possible that eventually the doomed Triton will plunge into the immense, deep blue world that it has circled for so long as an adopted member of its family. Nitrogen accounts for more than 98 percent of the crust of both Pluto and Triton. The relative lack of nitrogen ice on Makemake hints that its supply of nitrogen has somehow been depleted over the age of our Solar System.



The scientists also considered other possible sources of hydrogen from the little moon itself, such as a preexisting reservoir in the icy crustal shell or a global ocean. Subsequent analysis indicated that it was unlikely that the observed hydrogen was obtained during the formation of Enceladus or from other processes on the moon-world's surface or in the interior.



Most of the Big Whack theory was suggested in 1975 by Dr. William K. Hartmann and Dr. Donald R. Davis of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. Their theory was derived from geological evidence that had been collected by the Apollo astronauts when they made their historic trip to the Moon in 1969. Oxygen isotopes within the lunar rocks were found to be almost identical to those on Earth. Furthermore, other pieces of evidence revealed that the Moon is partly composed of the same material as Earth's mantle.