Sunday, 17 December, 2017

Astronomers have discovered a dwarf planet in the Solar system ring

Kristine Garrett | 12 October, 2017, 18:01

With the analysis in, it turns out the space rock that circles the sun beyond Pluto has a ring - the first planet discovered beyond Neptune to sport such cosmic jewellery. "The authors' results suggest that Haumea might not be in hydrostatic equilibrium, and this touches on the still-sensitive topic of how planets and dwarf planets should be defined", writes Amanda Sickafoose, an astronomer at MIT, in an accompanying article also published in Nature today. And for some reason, a significant part of them have rings.

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.

"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", explained Dr José Ortiz, whose group at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía in Granada made the discovery described in the journal Nature.

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 awesome trend in the characteristics of these faraway, mysterious minor planets.

Haumea's ring was discovered by an global team of astronomers operating on an ongoing program to designate Trans-Neptunian Objects or objects that are distant from the sun than Neptune. Scientists said that they would put another eye over Chariklo and Chiron, located between Saturn and Uranus.

Haumea is one of the fastest objects when talking about the speed any planet takes to rotate.

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. 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". When it's the furthest, it reaches 50 Au of distance.

Considering that Neptune is usually about 30 Astronomical Units (UN), Haumea could get close to the Sun.

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