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Whoa, Scientists Have Detected A Ring Around This Wacky Dwarf Planet

Whoa, Scientists Have Detected A Ring Around This Wacky Dwarf Planet

"We didn't expect to find a ring around Haumea, but we were not too surprised either". Oritz says there is more than one possible answer to that question.

"In contrast to other dwarf planets its size, shape, albedo [brightness] and density are not well constrained", the authors write in the study published today in the journal Nature.

That egg, called Haumea, is now the first official dwarf planet found to host a ring system, and only the third body smaller than Neptune known to have rings.

Aside from those instances, the Haumea ring is the first time we've detected this, so we're in some pretty unfamiliar territory - but the researchers hint we may be about to observe an unbelievable trend in the characteristics of these faraway, mysterious minor planets.

This new finding may assist scientists in understanding the reason behind ring formation, and the process of the same.

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.




Konstantin Batygin, CalTech planetary astrophysicist, wasn't surprised.

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. As a result, the team was able to pick up certain things about the dwarf planet, including the possibility of having a ring. That debris would have coalesced into the ring. As New Scientist details, astronomer Jose-Luis Ortiz's team claimed the first discovery in 2005.

"Prior to our work, researchers thought that Haumea was made mostly of rock and that it had a relatively thin crust of water ice", Ortiz told BuzzFeed News. The total number of officially recognised dwarf planets is now five, but some astronomers argue there could be hundreds of objects in the solar system that fit the definition. 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.

That rapid spin makes it the fastest-spinning large object known in our solar system.

This recent discovery implies that there might be more small bodies in the outer Solar System surrounded by rings, and humans simply haven't been able to determine every single one of them yet.

As far as the context, there are other objects besides Haumea or the gas giants with rings, too.


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