Astronomers found a ring around a dwarf planet beyond Neptune


Astronomers have made an unexpected discovery about Haumea, a mysterious dwarf planet on the edge of our solar system.

On Jan. 21, the astronomy team observed Haumea via 12 telescopes scattered across Europe.

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. This marks the third instance in the last few years were a ring was discovered around an object that's technically not a planet.

Unlike planets we all know from science classes in school, Hauma isn't a round globe, it's shaped more like a river rock.

Scientists can infer much about a planet's density and size by how much light it blocks out as it moves in front of a star.

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. Haumea's two moons, Hi'iaka and Namaka, are thought to be the product of an earlier collision between the small world and a mystery object, so it's reasonable to expect leftover material to be still floating around as well.

Why Does Haumea Have A Ring?

"This deployment of technical means allowed us to reconstruct with a very high precision the shape and size of dwarf planet Haumea, and discover to our surprise that it is considerably bigger and less reflecting than was previously believed".

In addition to the rings found around Chariklo, there's also evidence of a similar phenomenon around another Centaur called Chiron, although it's less clear than the Chariklo ring. This small object belongs to a population of asteroids called centaurs, which orbit between Saturn and Uranus. Two separate teams of astronomers - one led by Ortiz at the Sierra Nevada Observatory, the other led by Mike Brown at Caltech in the U.S. - claimed to have discovered it in close proximity to each other, leading to a dispute that delayed its official naming. Saturn's rings, for example partly came from Enceladus, one of its 53 moons.

The number of ringed solar objects seems to be increasing in the outer realm of the solar system.

The findings were published in the journal Nature. "For the New Horizons flyby, this is probably not an issue, although it should indeed be considered". The dwarf planet #Haumea, with a total distance of 600 miles from pole to pole, was discovered by astronomers in December 2004, Outer Places reported. That debris would have coalesced into the ring. Image from footage by Jose Maria Madiedo and Jose Luis Ortiz.