This weirdo dwarf planet has a ring around it

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Astronomers have discovered that Haumea, an egg-shaped dwarf planet at the edge of the Solar System, is surrounded by a ring of particles.

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

So how was the ring formed? 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. A ring system had previously been discovered around a centaur dubbed Chariklo. The term "dwarf planet" probably brings to mind bodies like Pluto - ideal spheres that only just miss out on true planethood.

"I'm sort of torn". She also reiterated that we can intercept supplemental ring associated discoveries in the future. "We'll be doing a great deal of studying and preparation".

This suggested something was obscuring it, most likely a series of rings, that was only confirmed after many months of follow-up research by a team led by José Luis Ortiz of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía.

By taking detailed measurements of the light fluctuations at each location as Haumea passed in front of-or occulted-the star, Ortiz and his team were able to calculate Haumea's diameter, shape, brightness, and density. In fact, Haumea crosses Pluto's orbit just as Pluto crosses Neptune's orbit.

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

The occultation also provided the team with our best analysis yet of Haumea's size and shape, which the researchers describe as "very exotic".

The dwarf planet got its name after the Hawaiian goddess of childbirth and fertility, according to NASA.

Till now there had been only four other planets in outer solar system which had rings - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Two separate teams of astronomers - one led by Ortiz at the Sierra Nevada Observatory, the other led by Mike Brown at Caltech in the United States - claimed to have discovered it in close proximity to each other, leading to a dispute that delayed its official naming.

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.

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