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Published March 2015 | Published
Journal Article Open

Irradiation Products On Dwarf Planet Makemake


The dark, reddish tinged surfaces of icy bodies in the outer solar system are usually attributed to the long term irradiation of simple hydrocarbons leading to the breaking of C–H bonds, loss of hydrogen, and the production of long carbon chains. While the simple hydrocarbon methane is stable and detected on the most massive bodies in the Kuiper Belt, evidence of active irradiation chemistry is scant except for the presence of ethane on methane-rich Makemake and the possible detections of ethane on more methane-poor Pluto and Quaoar. We have obtained deep high signal-to-noise spectra of Makemake from 1.4 to 2.5 μm in an attempt to trace the radiation chemistry in the outer solar system beyond the initial ethane formation. We present the first astrophysical detection of solid ethylene and evidence for acetylene and high-mass alkanes—all expected products of the continued irradiation of methane, and use these species to map the chemical pathway from methane to long-chain hydrocarbons.

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© 2015 American Astronomical Society. Received 2014 November 10; accepted 2015 January 8; published 2015 February 19.

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August 23, 2023
October 23, 2023