Published: Thu, October 12, 2017
Sports | By Nelson Rowe

Dwarf planet has a ring to it

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. Ortiz estimates that about a quarter of bodies in the outer solar system might have rings around them, although he stresses that this is still "pure speculation" for now. The discovery of Haumea's ring was reported in Journal Nature.

This new finding may assist scientists in understanding the reason behind ring formation, and the process of the same. "So, we did not have a clear clue that Haumea could have a ring". As a result, the team was able to pick up certain things about the dwarf planet, including the possibility of having a ring.

The stellar backdrop took place in January this year, and the perspectives from 12 different angles enabled the team to observe the dwarf planet like never before, and gave us our first glimpse at its ring system.

MIT and the South African Astronomical Observatory in Cape Town astronomer, who had no involvement in the research, Amanda Sickafoose, said that they expect another Astros near to the zone surrounded by large rings.

An worldwide team of astronomers found Haumea's ring by watching it from observatories across Europe as it crossed in front of the distant star, URAT1 533- 182543, on 21 January 2017. We now know it has a 70km-wide ring orbiting around its equator, 2,000km away from the planet itself.

But Haumea's ring is the first time astronomers have witnessed the phenomenon in a minor planet that isn't a Centaur. Scientists said that they would put another eye over Chariklo and Chiron, located between Saturn and Uranus.

"It may have originated in a collision with another object, or in the dispersal of surface material due to the planet's high rotational speed".

Hauma was also one of a handful of objects that actually led the IAU to rethink the definition of a planet altogether, and reclassify Pluto as a dwarf planet. This icy rock receives its flattened dinosaur egg shape from its lightning-fast rotation - a day only lasts four hours there. However, it requires many Earth-years to orbit the Sun: 284.

Haumea is named after the Hawaiin goddess of childbirth.

As a bonus, just before and just after Haumea blotted out the star, the telescopes also saw the starlight slightly fade out again: a signature for the presence of a ring. At its nearest point, the dwarf planet reaches a distance of 35 AU.

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