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TOPIC: (136108) 2003EL61


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Kuiper Belt Object (136108) Haumea makes its closest approach to the Earth (50.125 AU) on the 7th April, 2010.

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Title: The Dark Red Spot on KBO Haumea
Authors: Pedro Lacerda

Kuiper belt object 136108 Haumea is one of the most fascinating bodies in our solar system. Approximately 2000x1600x1000 km in size, it is one of the largest Kuiper belt objects (KBOs) and an unusually elongated one for its size. The shape of Haumea is the result of rotational deformation due to its extremely short 3.9-hour rotation period. Unlike other 1000 km-scale KBOs which are coated in methane ice the surface of Haumea is covered in almost pure water-ice. The bulk density of Haumea, estimated around 2.6 g/cc, suggests a more rocky interior composition, different from the water-ice surface. Recently, Haumea has become the second KBO after Pluto to show observable signs of surface features. A region darker and redder than the average surface of Haumea has been identified, the composition and origin of which remain unknown. I discuss this recent finding and what it may tell us about Haumea.

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Solar System Dwarf Planet "Haumea" Has a Mystery Spot

"The object is egg-shaped, so when you see it sideways it reflects more sunlight than when you see it tip-on" - Pedro Lacerda, an astronomer at Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland.

But the peak reflectance varies from one side to the other, revealing the presence of a dark spot on the dimmer side.

"It's as if you were looking at a football that is white, but one of the sides has a spot on it, so it looks darker overall" - Pedro Lacerda.

What is more, the spot reflects more red light than blue light, meaning it has a reddish tint in the visible spectrum. That tint could result from a local concentration of red-reflecting organic compounds or blue-absorbing minerals on Haumea's icy surface.

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Astronomers have described a dwarf planet orbiting in the far, frozen reaches of the solar system and unveiled a geological map of Ganymede, an icy satellite of Jupiter.
Space scientists were to provide the most detailed snapshots of these elusive objects today at the European Planetary Science Congress in Potsdam, on the outskirts of Berlin.
Observers led by Pedro Lacerda of Queen's University, Belfast, used a giant infra-red telescope atop a mountain in Hawaii to get unprecedented views of a frozen mini-world called Haumea, first spotted in 2005.

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Observations of the dwarf planet Haumea  by Dr. Pedro Lacerda, from Queens University, Belfast have shown unusual changes in brightness as it rotates.
It is presumed that the surface is covered in ice, but that an area is covered in a dark material, causing a dip in brightness.
Further observations show that the dimming in visible light is slightly redder while slightly bluer in infrared wavelength; this may indicate red organic material.
How the dark red material got there is unknown, but it could be a recent impact, or maybe an indication of volcanic activity on the dwarf planet.

-- Edited by Blobrana on Wednesday 16th of September 2009 12:08:04 PM

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The dwarf planets and other objects that litter the Kuiper belt in the far reaches of our solar system are a strange bunch, but astronomers have found what they think might be the weirdest one.
Discovered on Dec. 28, 2004 (catalogued as 2003 EL61 and nicknamed "Santa" for a time), the minor planet now known as the dwarf planet Haumea, to honour its Hawaiian discovery, is as big across as Pluto and one-third of its mass, but shaped something "like a big squashed cigar," said one of the astronomers who studies the object, Mike Brown of Caltech.
From its shape to its satellites, Haumea is a strange object, but one that could shed light on the history of collisions in the solar system, as well as the early environment of the Kuiper belt, which sits out beyond the orbit of Neptune.

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Haumea - imaged on April 4th and April 5th 2009 using the 0.61m f/10 Cassegrain at the Sierra Stars Observatory.

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Ed ~ Haumea made its closest approach to the Earth (50.179 AU) on the 7th April, 2009.

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The dwarf planet Haumea appears to have led a very violent life. Its body parts keep turning up in new places throughout the Kuiper belt, a ring of icy bodies beyond Neptune. And its icy surface is marred by a dark, red spot possibly a bruise from a past cosmic dustup.
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.
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.
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.

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Ortiz' group proposed the name Ataecina (Ataegina), an Iberian goddess of the Underworld, for 2003 EL61, but the IAU accepted Brown's proposal instead.

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Haumea is the goddess of childbirth and fertility in Hawaiian mythology. Her many children sprang from different parts of her body. She takes many different forms and has experienced many different rebirths. As the goddess of the earth, she represents the element of stone.

Haumea I, Hi'iaka, discovered 2005 Jan 26 by M.E. Brown, A.H. Bouchez, and the Keck Observatory Adaptive Optics team
Hi'iaka was born from the mouth of Haumea and carried by her sister Pele in egg form from their distant home to Hawaii. She danced the first Hula on the shores of Puna and is the patron goddess of the island of Hawaii and of hula dancers.

Haumea II, Namaka, discovered 2005 Nov 7 by M.E. Brown, A.H. Bouchez, and the Keck Observatory Adaptive Optics teams
Namaka is a water spirit in Hawaiian mythology. She was born from the body of Haumea and is the sister of Pele. When Pele sends her burning lava into the sea, Namaka cools the lava to become new land.

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