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136108 Haumea, 2003 EL61
Originally provisionally designated 'Santa'

A dwarf planet following a path around around the Sun that carries it through the Kuiper Belt, beyond he orbit of Neptune. Its entire orbit takes 284 years to complete; at times it can approach the Sun as closely 35 AU, while at others it can reach a distance of 51 AU. Haumea's orbit is highly inclined; that is, it strays nearly thirty degrees away from the Ecliptic, carrying it far 'above' and 'below' the plane of the Solar System.

Probably Haumea's most distinctive feature is its shape. It is not close to being spherical, but instead has a strongly ellipsoid form, being twice as long on one axis as on the other. The longer axis approaches 2,000 km in length, coming close to the diameter of Pluto.

A planet with a violent past, Haumea appears to have been involved in at least one significant impact. This probably explains its lack of the icy mantle common to many dwarf planets: Haumea is simply composed of solid rock. This may also offer an explanation for another unusual feature of Haumea: it possesses a fine ring of matter in a close orbit, perhaps representing debris expelled during the collision and held in place by the planetoid's gravity.

At least two of the fragments of this ancient collision remain in orbit around Haumea as moons. Haumea takes its name from a Hawaiian earth-goddess, and its moons are named for two of her daughters: larger outer Hi'iaka and smaller inner Namaka. There are at least five other objects floating through the Kuiper Belt that also seem to have originated in the same impact in the distant past.


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