Dwarf planet Haumea has its own ring system

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

Of course, rings around larger worlds in the Solar System are common, and while Saturn's is the most famous and extensive, there are also ring systems around the other giant planets: Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune.

The ring was discovered the dwarf planet Haumea, open in the 2004-2005 year, two independent teams of astronomers.

According to the team, Haumea's ring has a width of 70 kilometres (43.5 miles) and a radius of about 2,287 kilometres (1,421 miles), and the dwarf planet rotates three times on its axis in the time that a ring particle completes one revolution.

There's a potato-shaped dwarf planet in our solar system, and scientists have just discovered that it's got its very own ring.

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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. This allowed the planetary researchers to build a better theory about the size and shape of dwarf planet.

Hauma was also one of a handful of objects that actually led the IAU to rethink the definition of a planet altogether, and reclassify Pluto as a dwarf planet.

The number of ringed solar objects seems to be increasing in the outer realm of the solar system. At that moment, using 12 telescopes from 10 different laboratories, the researchers could see that the dwarf planet was joined with other materials.

The finding of rings also suggests that Haumea might have been hit with something not long ago, at least in terms of space, possibly between 700m and 1bn years ago.

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Haumea is not the only dwarf planet beyond the orbit of Neptune. But it's too soon to say for sure whether Haumea really doesn't match up to this criteria. This ring system suggests that the small bodies around the freaky planet could also host rings-and this poses a great challenge for visiting spacecrafts.

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

Haumea's ring is less reflective than the dwarf planet's bright water ice surface, suggesting it is made up of a mixture of rock and ice. Saturn's rings, for example partly came from Enceladus, one of its 53 moons.

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