Haumea is the forth largest known dwarf planet in our Solar System, after Pluto, Eris, and Makemake. Learn more about this oddly-shaped body:
– Haumea was independently discovered by two separate teams. The first to report the dwarf planet was a team led by Mike Brown at the California Institute of Technology. This team also discovered the dwarf planets Eris and Makemake. They first spotted the planet in December 2004 on images they had captured in May of that year, and announced their discovery on July 20, 2005. At around this time, a Spanish team led by José Luis Ortiz Moreno at the Instituto de AstrofÃsica de AndalucÃa at Sierra Nevada Observatory in Spain, noticed the dwarf planet on images they’d taken in March of 2003.
– Haumea is located in the region of space beyond the planet Neptune, known as the scattered disc. The dwarf planet is currently about 50 Astronomical Units from the Sun. Its closet distance is 35 AUs. One AU is equal to the distance between the Earth and the Sun — about 92,957,000 miles!
– It takes Haumea approximately 283 years to orbit the sun, and only about four hours to rotate once on its axis.
– Haumea is the fourth largest known dwarf planet in the solar system. Its strange ellipsoidal shape makes its size difficult to calculate, but astronomers believe its dimensions are about 1,200 miles long by 620 miles wide by 945 miles deep. Despite its uneven shape, Haumea still qualifies as a dwarf planet because it is large enough to round out is shape. Its flattened shape is caused by the speed of its rotation.
– The surface of Haumea is believed to be rich in minerals, and coated in crystalline ice.
– Haumea is named after the Hawaiian goddess of fertility. The name was chosen in keeping with the tradition of naming planets after mythological deities. In Hawaiian, the two sounds that make up the word Haumea mean “cold thing,” which is apropos for this chilly, distant planet.
– Haumea has two small moons, HiÊ»iaka and Namaka, that are believed to have once been part of the dwarf planet itself.
– The average temperature on Haumea is a frosty -402 F!
– It is not yet known whether Haumea has any atmosphere at all. If it does, its small size makes it likely that it is only a very thin one.
– Haumea, like most dwarf planets, can only be seen through very high-powered telescopes. It is the third brightest Kuiper belt object, after Pluto and Makemake.