The dwarf planets and other objects that litter the Kuiper belt in the far reaches of our solar system are a strange bunch, but astronomers have found what they think might be the weirdest one.
Discovered on Dec. 28, 2004 (catalogued as 2003 EL61 and nicknamed “Santa” for a time), the minor planet now known as the dwarf planet Haumea, to honor its Hawaiian discovery, is as big across as Pluto and one-third of its mass, but shaped something “like a big squashed cigar,” said one of the astronomers who studies the object, Mike Brown of Caltech.
From its shape to its satellites, Haumea is a strange object, but one that could shed light on the history of collisions in the solar system, as well as the early environment of the Kuiper belt, which sits out beyond the orbit of Neptune. …
Haumea is the fastest spinning object in the solar system. … But Haumea’s football shape and frantic spin aren’t the only weird things about it. It also has an unusual satellite.
… Haumea’s satellite, Hi’iaka …[is] way too small to be [a] captured object… It was also made of water ice. … Subsequent observations of Hi’iaka determined its orbit and turned up another surprise: a second satellite, Namaka. No other Kuiper belt object is known to possess more than one satellite. Namaka is another product of the collision that shattered Haumea, likely sometime during the early history of the solar system, which formed 4.5 billion years ago.