Monday, September 22, 2008

New Dwarf Planet

Livescience reports that the object formerly called 2003 EL61, a Kuiper Belt object discovered by Caltech's Mike Brown, has been declared a new dwarf planet by the IAU and is named Haumea after the Hawaiian goddess of fertility. The newly named plutiod is the fifth designated dwarf planet in our solar system, along with fellow distant travelers Pluto, Eris, recently named Makemake and the inner system dwarf planet Ceres.

"Haumea joins Ceres, Pluto, Eris and Makemake as the fifth dwarf planet in our solar system. Pluto was re-classified from planet to dwarf planet in 2006, following the discovery of Eris. The new dwarf planet has the same diameter as Pluto, but is much thinner, and contains about 32 percent of Pluto's mass. Scientists suggest Haumea's long, narrow shape arose from its rapid spin — it rotates about once every four hours."

The planet orbits erratically around the sun, varying from 35 to 50 astronomicla units, and also boasts two small moons, christened Hi'iaka and Namaka, after the two children born to the goddess Haumea.

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