This weirdo dwarf planet has a ring around it

Artist’s impression of the dwarf planet Haumea and its moons Hi’aka and Namaka. Credit NASA

The event that marked the presence of a ring-like structure was noted in the telescopes; before and after Haumea blotted out the star, the telescopes also saw the starlight slightly fade out again.Scientists also predict that the use of occultation to find a ring around Haumea may help others detect rings around similar distant objects. Oritz says there is more than one possible answer to that question. The term "dwarf planet" probably brings to mind bodies like Pluto - flawless spheres that only just miss out on true planethood.

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.

"In 2014 we discovered that a very small body in the Centaurs region (an area of small celestial bodies between the asteroid belt and Neptune) had a ring and at that time it seemed to be a very weird thing", said José Ortiz, the study lead author and head of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía in Spain, according to USA Today. This animation shows the 43-mile-wide ring of particles and debris that encircles the egg-shaped world, called Haumea. "This is an intriguing result", he told Gizmodo. It has two known moons: "Hiʻiaka and Namaka".

Haumea rotates every four hours. 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. 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.

But Haumea's ring is the first time astronomers have witnessed the phenomenon in a minor planet that isn't a Centaur. The most surprising item learned was that it has rings.

As far as the context, there are other objects besides Haumea or the gas giants with rings, too. We think that ring systems can form in different ways: They could be cobbled together from material left over from a planet's own formation, formed when a passing lump of rock is captured and broken up, or even, in the case of Saturn's E-ring, constantly replenished from ice spewing out of an orbiting moon. But just know that plenty of objects in our Solar System get much stranger when scientists look more closely.



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