Published: Thu, October 12, 2017
Sport | By Gary Shelton

Ring discovered around dwarf planet beyond Neptune

Ring discovered around 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 ring is not Haumea's only distinctive feature.

Now, with the find at Haumea, the answer seems to be no: "It means it's likely that there's nothing unusual about these rings, or they're at least an occasional aspect of solar system bodies", Showalter says.

Beyond the orbit of Neptune there are hundreds or even thousands of mysterious dwarf planets, most of which we know nearly nothing about - but there's a lot to learn when we catch a rare glimpse.

Of course, rings around larger worlds in the Solar System are common, and while Saturn's is the most famous and extensive, there are also ring systems around the other giant planets: Jupiter, Uranus, and 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.

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This new finding may assist scientists in understanding the reason behind ring formation, and the process of the same. "This is an intriguing result", he told Gizmodo.

In fact, all of its strangeness might be linked with Haumea and its two moons - Hi'aka and Namaka - potentially originating from a larger Haumea that was struck by something in the Kuiper Belt.

Haumea rotates every four hours. That debris would have coalesced into the ring.

Jose-Luis Ortiz, a solar system researcher with the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía in Spain, has been studying Haumea since he helped discover it in 2005.

But Haumea's recent story goes even deeper than that; its discovery a decade ago was rooted in controversy. Ortiz is the first author of the newest Nature study. This ring system suggests that the small bodies around the weird planet could also host rings-and this poses a great challenge for visiting spacecrafts.

The rings could be key to figuring out Haumea's history. They got 10 Earth-based observatories ready, and on that night all pointed their telescopes towards the same patch of sky to learn as much as they could. As much as planetary scientists are fascinated by this discovery, they claim that they had already kind of assumed the ring's presence on the exotic planet. And it's what makes a dwarf planet a planet (according to the definition the IAU came up with), and not just a "small solar system body".

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