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This picture shows what an artist thinks Haumea and its moons look like. The moons, Hi'iaka and Namaka, are actually much further from Haumea than shown here.
Click on image for full size
Images courtesy of NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI).

Moons of the Dwarf Planet Haumea

Haumea is a dwarf planet in our Solar System. Haumea has known moons, both discovered in 2005.

Hi'iaka is the larger moon. It has a diameter of about 310 km (193 miles). It orbits Haumea once every 49 days. It is about 49,500 km (30,758 miles) away from Haumea. Hi'iaka was discovered on January 26, 2005. It was discovered by a team of astronomers led by Mike Brown.

Namaka is the smaller moon. It is roughly 170 km (106 miles) across. Namaka orbits Haumea every 34.7 days at a distance of 39,300 km (24,420 miles). Namaka was discovered on June 30, 2005. It was also discovered by Mike Brown's group.

Astronomers think Haumea may have crashed into another large object a long time ago. Maybe that's why the dwarf planet spins so fast and has such an odd shape. The crash might have also created Haumea's moons. Pieces of Haumea left over from the crash might have come together to make the moons.

In Hawaiian mythology, Haumea is the goddess of fertility and childbirth. Hi'iaka and Namaka are two of her children. Namaka was a sea goddess or water spirit. Hi'iaka was the goddess of hula dancers.

Mike Brown's team at Caltech first spotted Haumea right after Christmas in 2004. They used the nickname "Santa" for the new object until it was given an official name. When they found the moons, the Caltech team stuck with the Christmas theme. They nicknamed Hi'iaka "Rudolph" and Namaka "Blitzen"!

Last modified October 8, 2008 by Randy Russell.

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