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Haumea, covered with ice crystals, a Dwarf Planet which shines beyond Neptune

Posted on: May 19, 2011

Haumea the fifth dwarf planet in our solar system, is covered with ice crystals and sparkles in outer space beyond Neptune’s orbit, thanks to the energy of radioactive elements, and the tidal force, European astronomers have announced. The dwarf planet is shaped like a rugby ball, with a length of 2,000 kilometers, it rotates with a very high speed around its own axis, making a full rotation in less than four hours.

Three quarters of the planet Haumea and the entire surface of the Hi’iaja, one of its satellites, are covered with well-ordered crystals of ice, according to the observations made ​​by the Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the European Austral Observatory (ESO) in Chile.

“As the sun steadily destroyed the crystalline structure from the the ice, it takes some energy sources to conserve, “said Benoit Carry, co-author of the study, published in the scientific journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Tidal force caused by the proximity of the two moons of Haumea, Hi’iaka and Namala, but also the presence of radioactive elements (potassium-40, thorium-232, uranium-238) within the dwarf planet could provide energy.

Haumea, which is named after a Hawaiian fertility goddess, had previously entered into collision with another terrestrial body, from the edges of our solar system, thus giving birth to her two satellites (200-300 km in diameter) that bear the names of the daughters of the goddess. According to astronomers, such a high speed collision could explain the dwarf planet’s rotation and shape of a rugby ball.

Haumea, which orbits more than five billion kilometers around the sun in the middle of the Kuiper belt, is the fifth dwarf planet in our solar system, a new class of planet that was created in 2006 by the International Astronomical Union’s decision, which includes Pluto, considered in the past the ninth planet of the solar system.

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