Astronomers found a ring around a dwarf planet beyond Neptune

Astronomers found a ring around a dwarf planet beyond Neptune

Astronomers found a ring around a dwarf planet beyond Neptune

Like its neighbor Pluto, Haumea takes a very long and elongated path around the sun and at times crosses the path of other celestial bodies.

The new measurements confirmed Haumea's density - slightly lower than we thought - but its odd shape means its gravity is not strong enough to make itself round, which could see it miss out on the criteria set out for a cosmic body to be named a dwarf planet. This icy rock receives its flattened dinosaur egg shape from its lightning-fast rotation - a day only lasts four hours there. The term "dwarf planet" probably brings to mind bodies like Pluto - ideal spheres that only just miss out on true planethood.

The planet, dubbed Haumea, orbits the Sun far beyond Neptune - the eighth and furthest recognised "full" planet in our star system since Pluto was downgraded to dwarf status in 2006.

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Haumea's ring was discovered by an global team of astronomers operating on an ongoing program to designate Trans-Neptunian Objects or objects that are distant from the sun than Neptune.

The specifics to how Haumea dimmed the light of that distant star would be perfectly explained by a semi-transparent ring with a width of 70km and a radius of 2287km. Saturn's rings, for example partly came from Enceladus, one of its 53 moons.

Konstantin Batygin, CalTech planetary astrophysicist, wasn't surprised. We know the dwarf planet itself reflects about half the sunlight that shines on it, and that it doesn't have an atmosphere. He explained that Haumea is spinning super quickly, probably as the result of some giant impact that happened billions of years ago. Haumea does have its own moons with at least two known to scientists called Hi'iaka and Namaka.

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The new discovery led under the supervision of Jose Luis Ortiz, an astronomer at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Spain. But it appeared that someone at Ortiz's institution had been sifting through famous planet hunter (and Batygin's now-partner) Mike Brown's online notes showing the object just before the announcement.

In that same study, astronomers suggested that other two dwarf planets may also be surrounded by rings. The most surprising item learned was that it has rings.

Amanda Sickafoose, an astronomer at MIT and the South African Astronomical Observatory in Cape Town said that the New Work printed in journal Nature recommends that ring systems in the outer solar system are quite common.

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