First Rings Found Circling Weird World Near Pluto

Egg-shaped Haumea was discovered in 2004 but astronomers have just been able to establish that it has a ring. Image credit- IAA-CSIC UHU

Egg-shaped Haumea was discovered in 2004 but astronomers have just been able to establish that it has a ring. Image credit- IAA-CSIC UHU

Jose Ortiz of the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia in Spain said that it is regrettable that even with the most enormous telescopes on Earth, or the Hubble Space Telescope, we can not see the details of Haumea, than a dot of light.

The Planetary Society, who provided access to two of the twelve telescopes used to observe Haumea pass in front of a star, describes the planet: "The frigid world is an ellipsoid about as wide as Pluto, shaped roughly like a flattened egg or river stone".

The discoverer of six moons and three planetary rings-including the gossamer rings of Jupiter-Mark Showalter is now heading up the hazard planning team for New Horizon's next flyby target, a tiny object in the Kuiper belt known as MU69.

What should we know about Haumea?

The egg-shaped planet is officially considered as a dwarf planet among five dwarf planets, but it is the only planet with its very own ring.

Scientists are studying a dwarf planet dubbed Haumea and earlier this year that planet passed between the Earth and a distant star allowing scientists to study the celestial body in finer detail.

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. The collision also left behind a few small moons and a trail of debris.

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. Scientists said that they would put another eye over Chariklo and Chiron, located between Saturn and Uranus.

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.

Why Does Haumea Have A Ring?

They also measured the planet's longest dimension at around 2322km, so around two Haumeas lined up lengthwise could fit inside the ring.

"There might be a minimum size for ring development, so from that point of view, MU69 is probably too small to have retained a ring", he adds.

Recently, a group of astronomers found a dwarf planet surrounded by ring particles beyond the orbit of Neptune and at the edge of the solar system, according to Verge. Image from footage by Jose Maria Madiedo and Jose Luis Ortiz.

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