The Straits Times
Published on Nov 22, 2012

Astronomers get rare glimpse of icy, dwarf planet


PARIS (AFP) - A rare dalliance with a star in a remote part of our Solar System has allowed scientists to glean data on a distant, icy dwarf planet about which we knew very little before, astronomers said on Wednesday.

They had expected to find an atmosphere similar to that of Pluto on the planet named Makemake but instead saw "no sign of one at all", the group wrote in the journal Nature.

They also discovered that Makemake, one of five dwarf planets known to exist on the edge of our Solar System, reflected more light from the Sun than its near neighbour Pluto.

Makemake reflected 77 per cent of the Sun's light compared to Pluto's 52 per cent - akin to the reflective power of dirty snow, the team reported.