Haumea's Shape, Composition, and Internal Structure

E. T. Dunham, S. J. Desch, L. Probst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We have calculated the figure of equilibrium of a rapidly rotating, differentiated body to determine the shape, structure, and composition of the dwarf planet Haumea. Previous studies of Haumea's light curve have suggested that Haumea is a uniform triaxial ellipsoid consistent with a Jacobi ellipsoid with axes ≈960 × 774 × 513 km and bulk density ≈2600 kg m-3. In contrast, observations of a recent occultation of Haumea indicate that its axes are ≈1161 × 852 × 523 km and its bulk density is ≈1885 kg m-3; these results suggest that Haumea cannot be a fluid in hydrostatic equilibrium and must be supported by interparticle forces. We have written a code to reconcile these contradictory results and to determine whether Haumea is in fact a fluid in hydrostatic equilibrium. The code calculates the equilibrium shape, density, and ice crust thickness of a differentiated Haumea after imposing axis lengths a and b. We find that Haumea is consistent with a differentiated triaxial ellipsoid fluid in hydrostatic equilibrium with axes of best fit a = 1050 km, b = 840 km, and c = 537 km. This solution for Haumea has ρ avg = 2018 kg m-3, ρ core = 2680 kg m-3, and core axes a c = 883 km, b c = 723 km, and c c = 470 km, which equates to an ice mantle composing ∼17% of Haumea's volume and ranging from 67 to 167 km in thickness. The thick ice crust we infer allows for Haumea's collisional family to represent only a small fraction of Haumea's pre-collisional ice crust. For a wide range of parameters, the core density we calculate for Haumea suggests that today the core is composed of hydrated silicates and likely underwent serpentinization in the past.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number41
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 20 2019


  • Kuiper belt objects: individual (Haumea)
  • planets and satellites: composition
  • planets and satellites: formation
  • planets and satellites: interiors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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