Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Spot Discovered On Dwarf Planet Haumea Shows Up Red And Rich With Organics

Date:
September 26, 2009
Source:
Europlanet Media Centre
Summary:
A dark red area discovered on the dwarf planet Haumea appears to be richer in minerals and organic compounds than the surrounding icy surface.

Artist's rendition of Haumea and its dark red spot.
Credit: Image courtesy of Europlanet Media Centre

A dark red area discovered on the dwarf planet Haumea appears to be richer in minerals and organic compounds than the surrounding icy surface.

Related Articles


The discovery will be presented at the European Planetary Science Congress in Potsdam by Dr Pedro Lacerda on Wednesday 16 September.

The spot was discovered by measuring changes in its brightness as it rotates. The origin of the spot is unknown, however its “light curve”, which describes variations in its brightness over time, is not exactly the same shape in all wavelengths. Small but persistent differences indicate that the dark spot is slightly redder in visible light and slightly bluer at infrared wavelengths.

“Our very first measurements of Haumea told us there was a spot on the surface. The two brightness maxima and the two minima of the light curve are not exactly equal, as would be expected from a uniform surface. This indicates the presence of a dark spot on the otherwise bright surface. But Haumea’s light curve has told us more and it was only when we got the infrared data that were we able to begin to understand what the spot might be,” said Dr. Pedro Lacerda, Newton Fellow at Queenʼs University Belfast.

Possible interpretations of these measurements are that the spot is richer in minerals and organic compounds, or that it contains a higher fraction of crystalline ice. If the spot is a scar of a recent impact onto Haumea then the spot material might resemble the composition of the impactor, perhaps mixed with material from the inner layers of Haumea.

Haumea orbits the Sun beyond Neptune, in a region known as the Kuiper belt. It is the fourth largest known Kuiper belt object (KBO) after Eris, Pluto and Makemake. These large KBOs, together with main-belt asteroid Ceres, are known as dwarf planets. One of the most surprising characteristics of Haumea is its very fast rotation, with one day lasting only 3.9 Earth hours. No other large object in the solar system spins as fast as Haumea. The rapid spin deforms Haumea into an elongated ellipsoid, 2000 km by 1600 km by 1000 km, whose shape balances gravitational and rotational accelerations. It is believed that Haumea was spun up by a massive impact more than a billion years ago.

Because of its large distance from the Earth, Haumea is visible only as a rather uninformative point of light. Most of what we know about this object was derived from its brightness variations, or “light curve”. Because of its rotation and elongated shape, Haumea brightens and dims periodically as it reflects more and less sunlight. The extent of this variation tells us how elongated Haumea is, and the time between each brightening and dimming is a measure of the rotation period. The precise Haumea shape and spin period imply that it has a density 2.5 times that of water. Since we know from spectroscopic observations that Haumea is covered in water ice, this high density implies Haumea must have a rocky interior, in contrast with its bright icy surface.

New observations of this spot are planned for early 2010 using the ESO Very Large Telescope. “Now we will get detailed spectroscopy of the spot to hopefully identify its chemical composition and solve the puzzle of its origin” Lacerda concluded.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Europlanet Media Centre. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Europlanet Media Centre. "Spot Discovered On Dwarf Planet Haumea Shows Up Red And Rich With Organics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090916092538.htm>.
Europlanet Media Centre. (2009, September 26). Spot Discovered On Dwarf Planet Haumea Shows Up Red And Rich With Organics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090916092538.htm
Europlanet Media Centre. "Spot Discovered On Dwarf Planet Haumea Shows Up Red And Rich With Organics." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090916092538.htm (accessed November 25, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) Take a stab at this -- stunt video shows a lamb chop's journey from an east London restaurant over 30 kilometers into space. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Soyuz Spacecraft Docks With International Space Station: NASA

Soyuz Spacecraft Docks With International Space Station: NASA

AFP (Nov. 24, 2014) A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Italy's first female astronaut safely docks with the International Space Station, according to NASA. Duration: 00:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Multi-National Crew Safely Docks at Space Station

Multi-National Crew Safely Docks at Space Station

Reuters - US Online Video (Nov. 24, 2014) A Russian Soyuz rocket delivers a multi-national trio to the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Soyuz Docks With Int'l Space Station

Raw: Soyuz Docks With Int'l Space Station

AP (Nov. 23, 2014) A Russian capsule carrying three astronauts from Russia, the United States and Italy has arrived at the International Space Station. (Nov. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins