Haumea (Dwarf Planet/Plutoid)


Haumea [1] was named after the Hawaiian goddess of childbirth and fertility and officially designated a "dwarf planet" [2] by the International Astronomical Union on September 17, 2008.

It was co-discovered by a Caltech team headed by M. E. Brown, on December 28, 2004, from images taken on May 6, 2004, and by J. L. Ortiz’s team at Sierra Nevada Observatory, on July 29, 2005, from images taken on March 7, 2003, [3] and is unique amongst dwarf planets (although the tiny world's gravity meets the "nearly round" requirement, a rapid rotation possibly due to the impact which produced its two moons has dramatically elongated it).


An orbit of 34.72 AU at perihelion and 51.54 AU at aphelion places this trans-Neptunian object (plutoid) squarely in the Kuiper belt, [4] its location part way between Pluto and Makemake.

Spectroscopic analysis of Haumea seems to indicate a surface of almost pure water ice surrounding a rocky core.

Its size is estimated to be roughly that of Makemake (probably slightly smaller), with a mass a third that of Pluto. Its surface temperature is approximately -240  C. Its atmosphere, if any, an unknown.

To date Haumea has two known moons: Hi‘iaka and Namaka.


[1] Originaly nicknamed Santa by the Caltech team because of the date of discovery (December 28).

[2] A "dwarf planet" is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round shape), (c) has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit and (d) is not a satellite.

[3] In truth both the date of discovery and the names of the discoverers are still a matter of contention.

[4] The Kuiper belt is a region of the outer Solar System populated by billions of rock-ice objects. It reaches from the orbit of Neptune (30 AU) outward to approximately 55 AU.




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