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Haumea: Ring Around Dwarf Planet an Unexpected Discovery

Image: Haumea: Ring Around Dwarf Planet an Unexpected Discovery
An artist's conception of Haumea and its ring (IAA-CSIC)

By    |   Wednesday, 11 Oct 2017 06:06 PM

Scientists have discovered the elongated dwarf planet Haumea has a ring and, like its dwarf neighbor Pluto, moons.

Other than Pluto, Haumea is one of the largest objects that orbits the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune, Space.com reported. Scientists think it got its oval shape from its fast rotation — a day on Haumea only lasts four hours.

Haumea is twice as long, maybe longer, in one direction as it is in the other, giving it an appearance sort of like a river rock. It is the fastest-spinning large object in the solar system, Space.com said.

The new information about Haumea was gathered when the dwarf planet passed in front of a distant star and its shape and size could be better seen and calculated. Twelve telescopes from 10 different labs were used to observe Haumea as it passed by, Space.com said.

The object’s odd shape could end up getting it reclassified, since most dwarf planets have sufficient gravity to make them round.

“I don’t know if this will change the definition [of a dwarf planet],” study co-author Pablo Santos Sanchez said, according to Space.com. “I think probably yes, but probably it will take time.”

The discovery of a ring around Haumea was unexpected. Of the five identified dwarf planets in our solar system, it is the only one to have them. Rings also are found on large planets such as Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune.

Unlike the icy rings of these large planets, however, Haumea’s ring is believed to have been caused by a collision of some kind, and may have broken off from another object in the solar system, The Verge reported.

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Scientists have discovered the elongated dwarf planet Haumea has a ring and, like its dwarf neighbor Pluto, moons.
haumea, ring, dwarf, planet
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2017-06-11
Wednesday, 11 Oct 2017 06:06 PM
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