When the word ‘ring’ comes to our mind, then we suddenly think of Saturn, as it possesses one of the largest and most outstanding rings ever found. But a recent study has revealed that scientists have found a small potato-sized dwarf planet named Haumea, which has a ring. This discovery has surprised the researchers because normally, rings are found in bigger planets and getting to see rings on a small distant planet has indicated that there might be many such dwarf planets in far space, which have rings.
The odd, egg-shaped planet Haumea is one of the four known diminutive planets that circle the sun from beyond the orbit of Neptune, and it is found to be surrounded by a ring of material roughly 43 miles in width. Actually, the observations suggest that Haumea is larger than it was expected and that means the gravity has not yet pulled it into a stable rounded shape. Also, in its closest approach, Haumea is 35AU away from Sun, and it goes beyond 50AU in its farthest distance from the Sun. This makes astronomers face difficulty in exactly calculating its size and its orbit.
An international team of astronomers, who were working on an ongoing program to characterize Trans-Neptunian Objects or TNOs, discovered this odd sized dwarf planet. TNOs are those cosmic objects that are farther from the sun than Neptune and are found beyond the orbits of the outermost planet of our Solar system. As Haumea is so small and so far away from the Sun, it becomes difficult to see it through the most sophisticated telescopes.
The lead researcher, Jose Oritz of the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia in Spain said that, unfortunately, even with the largest telescopes on Earth and even with the powerful Hubble Space Telescope, their team could not see anything more of Haumea than a dot of light. So, the research team decided to track the dwarf planet using stellar occultation. So, earlier this year, when, Haumea passed in front of the star URAT1 533-18253, Oritz and his team recorded the observations and did orbital calculations. They found out that, the dwarf planet is surrounded by a ring of material approximately 600 miles from its surface. The research was published in the journal Nature.