Haumea – Goddess of Childbirth for The Kuiper Belt

The Weirdest Object in the Solar System?
Digitally produced Image of Haumea

Shown above is arguably one of the most unique objects in our solar system. Located in The Kuiper belt, this dwarf planet was named after the place where researchers discovered it, Hawaii. What makes this dwarf planet special is its peculiar shape, giving it the nickname “santa”. But why is this one planet shaped like a football while the rest are spherical? The answer lies in its speed of rotation. Astronomers theorize that Haumea was most likely hit by something very very hard in its past (most likely an icy comet), causing it to spin at an extremely high rate. Astronomers observed that the face of the object was getting brighter and dimmer every 2 hours, corresponding to a rotation period of just 4 hours! For something the size of Pluto, this makes it the fastest spinning body in the solar system. Just like how Earth is somewhat egg-shaped due to its speed of rotation, Haumea has seen extreme stretching due to its much higher speed.

The name Haumea is the name of the Hawaiian goddess of childbirth. This name was fitting due to some other unique qualities about the dwarf planet. While several other objects in the Kuiper belt have satellites, Haumea’s are different. All other satellites discovered in the Kuiper belt are typical small bodies captured by a larger body. Haumea has two sattelites (only Kuiper belt object to have more than one), and they are both made of rock and ice. This suggests that the planet was in fact hit by a comet many years ago, and some of the shards stayed to become satellites. The names of the satellites are Hi’iaka and Namaka, making Haumeas namesake perfect: As the Hawaiian goddess of childbirth, she gave birth to many other Hawaiian deities (including Hi’iaka and Namaka), which were parts of her own body that she tore off to become them!

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