Haumea Facts

Haumea is a dwarf planet situated beyond the orbit of the planet Neptune. It is the only trans-Neptunian object known to us to have a ring. It has been named after the Hawaiian goddess of childbirth. Haumea is a unique planet because of its elongated sheet shape and rapid speed of rotation.

Haumea Profile

Interesting Haumea Facts

  • Haumea was first discovered in 2004, it was declared a dwarf planet in 2008.
  • The dwarf planet has been named after the Hawaiian goddess of childbirth.
  • It was discovered by a team of scientists which was being headed by Mike Brown.
  • Haumea is about 51.5 astronomical units away from the sun.
  • It is the third brightest known Trans Neptunian object.
  • The period of rotation of the dwarf planet is nearly four hours.
  • The period of revolution of the dwarf planet is 285 years on earth.
  • Haumea is not in the shape of a sphere. The shape of the dwarf planet has been called Jacobi ellipsoid.
  • It has an average radius of about 816 km. This makes it one of the smallest known dwarf planets.
  • It is the third-largest dwarf planet in terms of size after the dwarf planets of Pluto and Eris.
  • Haumea is known to have two confirmed moons. They are named as Namaka and Hi’iaka.
  • It is the largest known Trans Neptunian object among a group of objects called the collisional family.
  • Haumea is a unique planet because of its elongated sheet and rapid speed of rotation.
  • We do not know much about the surface and the atmosphere of the dwarf planet.
  • In 2017, scientists announced the discovery of a ring around the dwarf planet. It became the first-ever known body to be a part of the Kuiper belt and have a ring around it.
  • It has not yet been visited by any spacecraft.
  • If a spacecraft to be sent to this planet it would take 14 to 17 years to reach it since it is very far from Earth.
  • Haumea has been mentioned in a lot of books, TV shows, films, and even video games.

Haumea

Haumea is a dwarf planet situated beyond the orbit of the planet Neptune; it is a trans-Neptunian object. It has been named after the Hawaiian goddess of childbirth.

Let us have a deeper look and know more about this dwarf planet.

History

The earliest sighting of the dwarf planet was reported in early 1955. It was discovered in 2004 by a team of scientists which was being headed by Mike Brown in the Palomar Observatory of the United States. It was also independently discovered in 2005 at the Sierra Nevada Observatory in Spain by a team of scientists headed by José Luis Ortiz Moreno. Both of these teams of scientists claim credit for the discovery of the dwarf planet. However, no official discoverer of the dwarf planet has been listed yet. As mentioned before, it has been named after the Hawaiian goddess of childbirth.

It was officially declared as a dwarf planet on 17th September 2008 by the International Astronomical Union or the IAU.

Haumea is a member of the Trans-Neptunian region called the Kuiper Belt which is similar in appearance to the asteroid belt and consists of several smaller celestial bodies. Hence it can be estimated that the formation of this dwarf planet took place really 4.5 million years ago along with the formation of the entire solar system.

Pic courtesy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EightTNOs.png
Pic courtesy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EightTNOs.png

Appearance

Haumea has an odd shape for a planet. It is not a sphere but rather has an ellipsoid (3D ellipse) shape due to its fast spin.

Size

The dwarf planet has a radius of nearly 620 km or 385 miles, which is 1/14th the radius of the earth. Its period of rotation that is the amount of time that it takes to rotate once about its own axis is 4 hours. This makes it one of the fastest rotating objects known to us. It’s Rapid speed of rotation being actually responsible for its unique and elongated shape.

Limited information is available about the dwarf planet and its moons.

Surface

We do not know much about its surface, but it is believed to be composed of rock with a coating of water ice. This was determined by the Gemini and the Keck telescopes in 2005 and it was concluded that the surface of the planet is quite similar to the moon of Pluto named Charon.

Composition

Haumea is possibly composed of minerals of silicon such as olivine and pyroxene. Most of the rocky objects in the solar system are composed of these materials. The surface temperature of the dwarf planet is known to have a surface temperature of less than 50 K.

This dwarf planet is part of the collisional family. In fact, it is the largest member of this group. A collisional family is a group of objects that have similar physical and orbital characteristics. They were most probably formed by the shattering of a large progenitor because of a large impact.

Haumea has a mass that is almost one third (1/3rd) the total mass of the dwarf planet Pluto.  

Orbit & Rotation

The dwarf planet is nearly 43 astronomical units that are nearly 6.4 billion kilometers or 4 billion miles away from the Sun. It is so far away that it takes sunlight nearly 6 hours to travel from the sun to the dwarf planet.

The dwarf planet takes 285 years on earth to complete one revolution around the sun. It is known to have two confirmed moons. It is believed that billions of years ago a massive impact took place which created the fast spin of the dwarf planet and its two moons.

Magnetic Field

It is not known whether or not Haumea has a magnetic field. However, it is less likely as the dwarf planet is quite small in size. Hence, if a field exists, it will be very weak.

Atmosphere

Not much is known about the atmosphere of the dwarf planet due to its large distance from the earth.

Moons & Rings

Haumea is known to have two confirmed moons. They are named as Namaka and Hi’iaka.

The innermost or the nearest moon to Haumea is known as Namaka. On the other hand, Hi’iaka is the outer moon.

Haumea with Moons, Hi’iaka and Namaka
Haumea with Moons, Hi’iaka and Namaka

Namaka

Namaka, as stated, is the inner moon of the dwarf planet. It is also the smallest among the two moons. It has been named after the figure from Hawaiian mythology. It was the name of the Goddess of the sea and one of the daughters of Haumea.

It was discovered on 30th June 2005 and was officially announced on the 29th of November 2005. Before it was given its current name, it was called Blitzen by the team that discovered it. It is really bright, its brightness is about 1.5% that of its parent dwarf planet. It is about 170 km in diameter. It is believed that the surface of this moon is made up of water ice.

Hi’iaka

Hi’iaka, as stated, is the outermost moon of the two moons of the dwarf planet and the larger of the two. It was the first satellite of the dwarf planet to be discovered. It has been named after the patron goddess of the big island of Hawaii one of the two daughters of Haumea.

It is brighter than the other moon. It is known to have a rotation period of nearly 10 hours. One interesting thing to note is that it is larger than the four largest asteroids in the Asteroid belt. It is not tidally locked with its parent planet.

The Hubble Space Telescope and the cat telescope have been used to determine the mass of the Moon. It is believed to be mostly composed of water ice in the crystalline form. It was expected that its water would turn amorphous due to the constant Cosmic Rays being received by it, but this prediction has not occurred, and the reason remains unknown.

Ring of Haumea

Haumea With Ring
Haumea With Ring

In 2017, scientists announced that the discovery of a ring around the dwarf planet. It became the first-ever known body to be a part of the Kuiper belt and have a ring around it. The ring is thought to have a radius of 2287 km and a width of approximately 70 km.

The plane of the Ring coincides almost completely with the equatorial plane of the dwarf planet and also the orbital plane of its larger and outer moon.

Is Haumea a dwarf planet?

Haumea caused a lot of debate among scientists about who should be credited for the discovery of the Dwarf planet. As defined by the International Aeronautical Union (IAU), a dwarf planet is any celestial body that directly orbits the sun and has enough mass to be controlled by gravitational forces.

Thus, the three conditions for a body to be called a planet are to orbit around the sun, to have enough mass and to ‘clear the neighborhood’ around its planet. Haumea only meets two of the criteria as it does not have enough mass to be called a planet, and hence, it was declared as a dwarf planet.

Since 2008, NASA has acknowledged five dwarf planets in the solar system. They are Ceres, Pluto, Eris, Makemake, and Haumea. Ceres is the only dwarf planet in the asteroid belt. It was considered a planet for many years until it was officially accepted as a dwarf planet. Pluto lies beyond Neptune. Haumea and Makemake were both discovered in 2008.

Haumea Exploration

No human being has never visited Haumea. It would be very difficult to build a spacecraft and send humans to Haumea as the spacecraft would take several years to reach the dwarf planet. It is estimated that if a fly permission to be sent to this dwarf planet is to be conducted it would take at least 14.25 years to reach.

It might also take 16.4 5 years depending on its position at the time of launch. It is probable that missions to this planet are currently being planned. Still, if we have to send a spacecraft to this dwarf planet it might not be sooner than September 2025. It would also require a very big power source and technology which is currently beyond the technology that we have on earth today.

A Human mission to Haumea is not thought to take place any sooner the obvious reason being its large distance and extreme and unknown conditions. However, human missions to further planets may become possible in the future as science and technology advances.

Dwarf planets have not been known to mankind for that long time as compared to the other planets of the solar system. This is because of the fact that they are very small in size and are at a great distance from the Sun. Most of them cannot be seen by the naked eye and require the use of an advanced telescope.

Haumea in Pop Culture

Haumea, a dwarf planet has found a place in popular culture. Dwarf planets create curiosity in the minds of writers and artists because of how mysterious they are. They have been used as a base and several works of fiction especially science fiction. Hence, they have been mentioned in a lot of books, TV shows, films, and even video games.

Timeline

  • 2004: The dwarf planet is discovered by a team at Caltech
  • 2005: Moons, Hi’iaka and Namaka are discovered by Darin Ragozzine and Michel Brown
  • 2008: The dwarf planet is named ‘Haumea’

References

Leave a Comment