Science Articles

Dwarf Planet Haumea has a Ring around it

There are five prominent dwarf planets located beyond Neptune – they are Pluto, Ceres, Eris, Haumea and Makemake

The solar system is totally wide open. Almost anywhere we go, we are sure that we would learn a lot. In the words of Kalpana Chawla, when we look into the night sky, at the stars and the galaxy, we feel that we are not just from any particular piece of land, but from the solar system. A lot of research is still left to be done, but what we have studied till now has left us with many interesting topics to ponder on.

One classic example of such baffling discovery is the discovery of Neptunian objects in the solar system. As the name suggests, they are small celestial bodies that orbit the sun between the asteroid belt and Neptune. Thousands of these Neptunian objects are to be found in the outer part of the solar system. We are all familiar with Pluto being declared a dwarf planet in 2006, by the International Astronomical Union. One of the main reasons behind this move was the discovery of such similar celestial bodies.

There are five prominent dwarf planets located beyond Neptune – they are Pluto, Ceres, Eris, Haumea and Makemake. Way back in 2014, a very small body was observed in the region and it seemed to have a ring on it, which was unusual. The size of the bodies were almost as large as Pluto, so it did not come as that big a surprise after all, but then only four out of eight planets in the solar system have rings, and they are all our planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. It is the first trans-Neptunian object discovered to be encircled by a ring.

The Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, in Granada actually made this discovery. Like all other discoveries, they did not expect to find a ring around the dwarf planet Haumea, but they did and it turns out that Haumea has two moons and the larger of the two lies exactly in the plane of the ring that has been discovered.

Interestingly, Haumea had been named after the Hawaiian Goddess of childbirth. It has an unusual shape, it is elongated not unlike a rugby ball, and sons quite fast – once every 3 to 9 hours. And it is quite small comparatively, at about a third of our Moon’s diameter. Truly, the solar system never fails to amaze us, the more we delve into the deep cold space, the brighter our minds get.

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