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The Hidden Oceans of Eris and Makemake: Surprising Discoveries by JWST

By: April Carson

The outer reaches of our solar system have always been a realm of mystery, filled with icy bodies and dwarf planets. Among these enigmatic objects are Eris and Makemake, two dwarf planets residing in the distant Kuiper belt. Previously believed to be nothing more than frozen, inactive rocks, recent observations from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) have revealed astonishing hints of unexpected geological activity lurking beneath their surfaces. Could these distant celestial bodies harbor hidden oceans of liquid water?

The Kuiper Belt: A Frigid Frontier

Before we delve into the exciting discoveries surrounding Eris and Makemake, let's first set the stage by understanding the Kuiper belt. This region, located beyond Neptune's orbit, is a vast expanse of icy bodies, often compared to large, dormant comets. These objects, known as Kuiper belt objects (KBOs), have long been thought to preserve the ancient ices that originated in the early days of our solar system.

However, the JWST, a cutting-edge space telescope launched in 2021, has been peering deeper into this frozen wilderness, leading scientists to reconsider their assumptions about these celestial wanderers.

Eris: A Dwarf Planet with Surprising Activity

Eris, discovered in 2005, quickly gained fame for sparking the debate about Pluto's status as a planet. But beyond its role in the planetary classification debate, Eris has been revealing its own secrets. Dr. Kelsi Singer, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute, notes, "Eris was initially thought to be a typical, cold dwarf planet. However, the JWST's observations have hinted at a different story."

One of the most intriguing findings is the presence of unexpected surface features on Eris, such as cracks and rifts. These features strongly suggest that something beneath the surface might be at play. Dr. Singer speculates, "The presence of these geological features on Eris suggests the possibility of subsurface activity, which could imply the existence of a hidden ocean."

Makemake: Another Kuiper Belt Surprise

Makemake, another Kuiper belt resident, has also shown signs of unexpected activity. Dr. Will Grundy, a member of the New Horizons mission team and a senior scientist at the Lowell Observatory, points out, "Makemake was considered a simple, frozen world until the JWST's observations raised questions about its true nature."

The JWST's infrared observations have revealed that Makemake possesses a tenuous atmosphere. Dr. Grundy explains, "A tenuous atmosphere is an indication that something beneath the surface may be outgassing volatile materials, possibly hinting at the existence of subsurface reservoirs of liquid."

Unlocking the Secrets of Hidden Oceans

The idea of subsurface oceans on distant dwarf planets challenges our previous understanding of these icy worlds. Dr. Singer emphasizes, "The presence of liquid water beneath the surface of Eris and Makemake would have profound implications for our understanding of planetary evolution and the potential for life beyond Earth."

While the JWST has provided tantalizing hints, more research is needed to confirm the existence of these hidden oceans. Future missions, such as sending spacecraft to study these dwarf planets up close, could help answer the lingering questions.

The outer solar system continues to surprise us with its hidden secrets. Eris and Makemake, once thought to be frozen and inert, might be harboring unexpected oceans of liquid water beneath their icy exteriors. As Dr. Grundy aptly puts it, "These discoveries remind us that our solar system is far from fully explored, and the mysteries of its distant reaches are still waiting to be unraveled."

The ongoing exploration of Eris, Makemake, and the Kuiper belt reminds us of the boundless wonders that space has to offer and the importance of staying curious, pushing the boundaries of our knowledge, and seeking answers to the most profound questions about our universe.

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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav


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