Ring discovered around dwarf planet beyond Neptune


But it also gives planners for deep-space missions, like the New Horizons spacecraft that flew past Pluto, an extra item on the checklist of hidden hazards to watch for as the probe hurtles toward its next destination.

The study's co-author Pablo Santos Sanz suggests that a debate will continue for some time, but it is likely that it could lose dwarf planet status. "We'll be doing a great deal of studying and preparation".

Haumea's ring has a radius of almost 1,500 miles, the team discovered, and it moves very slowly in contrast with its host planet.

Today, scientists are reporting the discovery of a vast ring encircling Haumea, a distant dwarf planet that takes some 284 Earth years to orbit the Sun, and it's the first time we've seen a ring in this category of minor planet. However, the team was able to more accurately estimate its density, which was lower than previous estimates.

The researchers revealed that Haumea is surrounded by a ring of material that's roughly 43 miles in width.

Though unexpected, it wasn't a huge surprise, Ortiz says.

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.

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The paper also suggests that Haumea might not be as small as we think. The reason for the odd shape of the dwarf planet according to scientists is that it has an incredibly fast rotation.

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

Why is there a ring there in the first place, though? 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 USA - claimed to have discovered it in close proximity to each other, leading to a dispute that delayed its official naming. Together, these results raised questions over whether there was something unique about centaurs that made them able to host rings.

In Haumea's case, they found it sported a dense, Saturn-like ring some 70 kilometers wide, made of frozen particles.

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.

"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. Haumea is one of the five recognized dwarf planets in the Solar System, and now also the only one to have a ring.

Why Does Haumea Have A Ring?