'Dwarf planet' covered in crystal ice

2011-05-13 07:26

kalahari.com

  • Astronomy
    Learn about famous astronomers, the solar system, stars, and other aspects of astronomy Was R174.95 Now R148.71
    buy now

Paris - A bizarre mini-planet that orbits the Sun in deep space is covered with crystallised water, European astronomers reported on Thursday.

Around 2 000km long, the "dwarf planet" of Haumea lurks in the Kuiper Belt, which comprises rocks that move in a lonely orbit beyond Neptune.

Haumea, named after a Hawaiian goddess of fertility and childbirth, was discovered in 2004 but detailed views of it are very rare and even now its precise orbit and size are unknown.

New sightings by a team from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) using a giant telescope in the Chilean desert describe Haumea as having the shape of a "flattened rugby ball".

Despite its immense distance from Earth, Haumea shines brightly in space thanks to a reflective surface of water ice that covers a rocky body.

Energy sources

Three-quarters of Haumea and all of Hi'iaka, one of two satellites along with Namaka, have this icy coating, ESO said. The ice is unusual because it is crystalline, meaning that it has an ordered structure, it said in a press release.

Crystalline structures are destroyed by sunlight, so other energy sources are needed to keep the ice organised on Haumea and Hi'iaka, rather than meld into shapeless, amorphous frost.

The ESO scientists believe that two sources are available for doing this - a trio of radiogenic elements (potassium-40, thorium-232 and uranium-238) that lie beneath the icy crust and "tidal forces" provided by the gravitational give-and-take between Haumea and her daughters.

Haumea spins completely in less than four hours, giving it one of the fastest rotation speeds in the Solar System.

The mini-planet's strange shape may derive from the ultra-fast spin, which could have been conferred by a tangential collision with another space rock.

The whack could also have gouged out two splinters which became Hi'iaka and Namaka.

It is the fifth largest "dwarf planet", a category that was created in 2006 by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and is headed by Pluto, which was formerly designated a full-fledged planet.

The two satellites of Haumea are named after the goddess' daughters. Hi'iaka measures around 400km across, and Namaka is around 200km.

Read more on:    astronomy
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
8 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Wednesday Cape Town - 09:21 AM
    Road name: N2 Inbound
    Earlier ACCIDENT before Hospital Bend has been moved to the side of the carriageway - HEAVY DELAYS from Duinefontein Road
  • Wednesday Kenilworth - 09:17 AM
    Road name: M5 Northbound
    DELAYS between Ottery and Kenilworth due to roadworks in the area
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Curve 9360

The BlackBerry Curve 9360 smartphone comes preloaded with Blackberry OS7...

From R1595.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may find yourself fascinated by something which could draw you in to obsessively exploring this subject in depth....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.