Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2008 September 23
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Haumea of the Outer Solar System
Illustration Credit: NASA

Explanation: One of the strangest objects in the outer Solar System was classified as a dwarf planet last week and given the name Haumea. This designation makes Haumea the fifth designated dwarf planet after Pluto, Ceres, Eris, and Makemake. Haumea's smooth but oblong shape make it extremely unusual. Along one direction, Haumea is significantly longer than Pluto, while in another direction Haumea has an extent very similar to Pluto, while in the third direction is much smaller. Haumea's orbit sometimes brings it closer to the Sun than Pluto, but usually Haumea is further away. Illustrated above, an artist visualizes Haumea as a nearly featureless ellipsoid. Quite possibly, however, Haumea has interesting craters and surface features that currently remain unknown. Originally discovered in 2003 and given the temporary designation of 2003 EL61, Haumea was recently renamed by the IAU for a Hawaiian goddess. Haumea has two small moons discovered in 2005, recently renamed Hi'iaka and Namaka for daughters of the goddess.

Tomorrow's picture: almost quiet

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