Dwarf planets body parts litter outer solar system

October 16th, 2008 - 3:18 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Oct 16 (ANI): It has been found that the body parts of the dwarf planet Haumea keep turning up in new places throughout the Kuiper belt, a ring of icy bodies beyond Neptune.

Haumea, previously known as 2003 EL61, was discovered in 2005. The oblong object is nearly as long as Pluto and is covered by almost pure water ice.

According to a report in New Scientist, Haumea seems to have led a very violent life, with its two moons likely forming in an ancient collision.

The dwarf planet boasts two small moons thought to have been created after a collision with another denizen of the Kuiper belt billions of years ago.

Their orbits suggest Hiiaka, the outer one, weighs 0.5 percent as much as Haumea and Namaka just 0.05 percent.

Astronomers had already found five big pieces that were flung away in the smashup. Now, two more have been spotted by Emily Schaller and Mike Brown of Caltech.

Future surveys may find dozens more, said Schaller, who presented her findings at a planetary science meeting in Ithaca, New York, recently.

The chunks, which are dispersed throughout the Kuiper belt, still share some orbital properties with Haumea. But they really stand out because of their pure icy surfaces.

Meanwhile, Pedro Lacerda of the University of Hawaii has discovered more evidence of Haumeas battered past using Japans Subaru telescope.

Subtle colour changes observed as Haumea rotates around its axis suggest that the dwarf planet sports a dark, red spot on its surface. It might be a big impact scar that reveals the dwarf planets rocky interior.

Astronomers stand to learn more about the tortured worlds in the next five years. During that time, Earth is positioned in more or less the same plane as Haumeas moons, meaning they should pass in front of or behind the rapidly spinning object.

According to Daniel Fabrycky of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, detailed observations of these events could shed light on the objects sizes and surface markings. (ANI)

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