Haumea is one of the five known dwarf planets in our solar system. It was discovered in 2004 and is located way out beyond Neptune in the Kuiper belt. The discovery of the dwarf planet sparked controversy over who actually discovered it. Haumea is unique due to its shape. Read on to find out more!
- Haumea is the third closest dwarf planet to the Sun and to Earth. It is located beyond Neptune and within the Kuiper belt.
- Haumea spins on its axis once every 3.9 hours. This makes a day on Haumea very short and it is because it is actually one of the fastest rotating large objects in the solar system.
- Haumea is roughly one third of the mass of Pluto. Its diameter is more complicated than most planets because it has a unique shape. Its diameter at its longest is 1,960 kilometers (1,218 miles) however it has a very elongated shape so other parts of the dwarf planet are much more narrow. In fact its major axis is estimated to be almost twice as long as its minor axis.
- Haumea has a rather chilly surface temperature of -241 degrees celcius. This is because it is located far from the Sun in the Kuiper Belt.
- It is suspected that the surface of Haumea is made of rock with a very thick coating of ice. It appears similar to the surface of Pluto’s moon Charon.
- Haumea takes 284 earth years to orbit the Sun. This means an entire orbit has not happened since the dwarf planet was discovered.
- Haumea is the third brightest object in the Kuiper belt. Only Pluto and Makemake are brighter. Although Haumea cannot be seen with the naked eye, if the night is clear and one has a good telescope Haumea can be spotted.
- Haumea was discovered on the 28th of December in 2004 by a team headed up by Mike Brown of Caltech at the Palomar Observatory. The dwarf planet was technically the first dwarf planet to be discovered, as Pluto was still classified as a planet at this point. However the planet was not named for quite some time as people could not agree on who should receive credit for the discovery. This is because although Mike Brown and his team were the first to discover the planet, a Spanish team headed by Jose Luis Ortiz Moreno were the first to announce it to the world. Brown initially allowed Moreno to claim the discover, but upon finding out the Spanish team had accessed Caltechs systems to locate Haumea, claimed the discovery as his and his teams.
- It took a long time to name Haumea. The Spanish team suggested the name Ataecina however the International Astronomical Union ruled in favour of the California team and the dwarf planet was officially named Haumea in September of 2008. Until then the Caltech team had nicknamed the dwarf planet Santa as it was discovered so close to Christmas.
- Haumea is named after the Hawaiian goddess of childbirth. According to mythology the goddess had lots of children who were born from many parts of her body. This was part of the reason for choosing the name Haumea for the dwarf planet as it is surrounded by a swarm of icy objects that are thought to have broken away from Haumea during a collision a long time ago.
- Haumea has two small orbiting moons. These are called Hi’iaka and Namaka – the names of two of Haumea’s daughters. These moons were also discovered by Mike Brown’s team. The moons are thought to have been created when a large object collided with Haumea, causing two pieces of the planet to break away and begin orbiting it. These moons were at first nicknamed Rudolph and Blitzen whilst the argument of the dwarf planets discovery was settled.