Haumea: A Dwarf Planet


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Haumea is believed to be shaped like a plump cigar. The dwarf planet's rapid spin is thought to be the cause of this unusual shape.

Like Pluto and Makemake, Haumea is a dwarf planet located in the Kuiper Belt. Its actual discovery is a controversial topic in the world of astronomy. A team of astronomers from Caltech first published the discovery online on July 20, 2005 using data they collected on May 6, 2004. It was called Santa by the Caltech team because they first noticed the dwarf planet on December 28, 2004 while analyzing the images taken in May. On July 27, 2005, a Spanish team of astronomers from Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia published their discovery using data they collected on March 7, 2003. Regardless of who discovered Haumea, it was officially recognized as a dwarf planet by the International Astronomical Union in 2008.

Haumea (pronounced hah-oo-may-ah) is named after the Hawaiian goddess of fertility and childbirth. In Hawaiian mythology, Haumea's children sprang from different parts of her body. When two moons were discovered in orbit around Haumea, they were named after her children. The largest moon is called Hi'iaka. The smaller moon is known as Namaka.

Haumea is believed to have a mass that is one-third that of Pluto. It takes 285 Earth years for Haumea to make one orbit around the Sun.

Haumea and its moons as seen in Keck Telescope image
Haumea and its Moons

A Question

Why was Haumea unofficially first called Santa?

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