The creation of haumea's collisional family

Hilke E. Schlichting, Re'Em Sari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Recently, the first collisional family was discovered in the Kuiper Belt. The parent body of this family, Haumea, is one of the largest objects in the Kuiper Belt and is orbited by two satellites. It has been proposed that the Haumea family was created from dispersed fragments that resulted from a giant impact. This proposed origin of the Haumea family is however in conflict with the observed velocity dispersion between the family members ( 140ms -1) which is significantly less than the escape velocity from Haumea's surface ( 900ms-1). In this paper we propose a different formation scenario for Haumea's collisional family. In our scenario the family members are ejected while in orbit around Haumea. This scenario, therefore, naturally gives rise to a lower velocity dispersion among the family members than expected from direct ejection from Haumea's surface. In our scenario Haumea's giant impact forms a single moon that tidally evolves outward until it suffers a destructive collision from which the family is created. We show that this formation scenario yields a velocity dispersion of 190ms-1 among the family members which is in good agreement with the observations. We discuss an alternative scenario that consists of the formation and tidal evolution of several satellites that are ejected by collisions with unbound Kuiper Belt objects. However, the formation of the Haumea family in this latter way is difficult to reconcile with the large abundance of Kuiper Belt binaries. We, therefore, favor forming the family by a destructive collision of a single moon of Haumea. The probability for Haumea's initial giant impact in today's Kuiper Belt is less than 10-3. In our scenario, however, Haumea's giant impact can occur before the excitation of the Kuiper Belt and the ejection of the family members afterward. This has the advantage that one can preserve the dynamical coherence of the family and explain Haumea's original giant impact, which is several orders of magnitude more likely to have occurred in the primordial dynamically cold Kuiper Belt compared to the dynamically excited Kuiper Belt today.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1242-1246
Number of pages5
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009


  • Asteroids
  • Comets: general
  • Kuiper Belt
  • Minor planets
  • Solar system: formation


Dive into the research topics of 'The creation of haumea's collisional family'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this