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Dwarf Planet Haumea

Posted by Lydia on October 23rd, 2008

The Kuiper Belt is home to a number of dwarf planets. Haumea is one such body: shaped like a deflated American football it rotates end over end every four hours, faster than any other rotating body in our solar system. Its rock-like density, consisting of layered rock and ice, is unusual for a Kuiper Belt object most of which are mainly made up of ice.

Haumea’s moons are pieces of ice whacked off the dwarf by another fast spinning object. This collision contributed to its quick spin which in turn is probably the reason for its oblonged shape. More interesting is the possibility of addition circulating pieces of neighbouring ice which could also be bits of whacked off Haumean mantle.

Haumea, was originally named “Santa” by its co-discoverer, Mike Brown, having found it residing in the Kuiper Belt along with its two moons around Christmas time, 28 December, 2004.  Haumea’s axis is close to the size of other dwarves, Pluto (sigh!), Eris and Makemake. Makemake is the brightest object in the Kuiper Belt, next to Pluto, originally called “Easter Bunny”, was discovered on March 31, 2005 by Mike Brown and his team (mentioned below).

Haumea’s name was chosen by David Rabinowitz of Yale University, one of the co-discoverers (Mike Brown and Chad Trujillo of Gemini Observatory in Hawaii being the other co-discoverers.) Haumea’s moons are Hi’iaka, the brighter outer moon and Namaka, Haumea’s fainter inner moon. There is quite a bit of Hawaiian folklore involved in the naming of Haumea and it makes for an interesting read.

Locate Haumea on November 1, 2008 in Hercules:
RA = 13h 8m 58.69sec, DEC = +18° 30′ 48.8″

What else has Mike Brown and his illustrious team discovered? Check out his blog

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