The effect of orbital evolution on the Haumea (2003 EL 61) collisional family

Kathryn Volk, Renu Malhotra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The Haumea family is currently the only identified collisional family in the Kuiper belt. We numerically simulate the long-term dynamical evolution of the family to estimate a lower limit of the family's age and to assess how the population of the family and its dynamical clustering are preserved over Gyr timescales. We find that the family is not younger than 100Myr, and its age is at least 1Gyr with 95% confidence. We find that for initial velocity dispersions of 50-400ms -1, approximately 20-45% of the family members are lost to close encounters with Neptune after 3.5Gyr of orbital evolution. We apply these loss rates to two proposed models for the formation of the Haumea family, a graze-and-merge type collision between two similarly sized, differentiated KBOs or the collisional disruption of a satellite orbiting Haumea. For the graze-and-merge collision model, we calculate that >85% of the expected mass in surviving family members within 150ms -1 of the collision has been identified, but that one to two times the mass of the known family members remains to be identified at larger velocities. For the satellite-break-up model, we estimate that the currently identified family members account for ∼50% of the expected mass of the family. Taking observational incompleteness into account, the observed number of Haumea family members is consistent with either formation scenario at the 1σ level, however both models predict more objects at larger relative velocities (>150ms -1) than have been identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-115
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Kuiper belt
  • Planetary dynamics
  • Trans-neptunian objects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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