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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Haumea, the newest dwarf planet

A few days ago it became known that the KBO known informally as "Santa" had been admitted as new dwarf planet, the fifth one in chronological order (the others are Ceres, Pluto, Eris and Makemake), with the name of
Haumea. Mike Brown, (arguably) its discoverer and certainly its namer, blogged on it and the controversy surrounding the discovery (same as that of Eris). Now he also posts on what makes a dwarf planet.

It was certainly not too clear to me why Haumea is a dwarf planet, being not round but clearly oval. But Brown has now wiped out my doubts: the odd shape is caused only because of its extremely fast spin,
if you stopped it spinning it would become a sphere. Haumea is therefore in hydrostatic equilibrium and that is what makes a dwarf planet apart of any other non-planetary object in the Solar system.

So I also bid my welcome to Haumea, godess of childbirth, fertility and Earth, as new dwarf planet.

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