With the help of improved instruments and advanced space technology, scientists are now able to far stretch their exploration. We are now able to see beyond our solar system, and a recent research has surprisingly found out a potato-shaped dwarf planet, which has rings.
The study reveals that astronomers have discovered a ring of particles surrounding a small, distant dwarf planet at the edge of the solar system. The name of the dwarf planet is Haumea (named after a Hawaiian goddess) and it has got an odd, squashed egg-like shape. Haumea is one of just five officially recognized dwarf planets in the Solar System, but it’s the only one we know of to have its very own ring.
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. But still, scientists have defined it as a dwarf planet owing to its size and its location. In 2014, the same group of astronomers discovered two thin rings around a smaller, minor planet called Chariklo that orbits between Jupiter and Neptune and now they have again discovered rings present on a dwarf planet. So, this has actually astonished the scientists, because only the gas giants of our solar system like Saturn, Jupiter, were known to have rings. And finding rings on such far away and small objects is actually surprising.
Haumea is one of those trans-Neptune objects or TNOs found beyond the orbit of the outermost planet of our solar system. It has the closest approach to the Sun of 35 Astronomical Units. And at its farthest distance, it is above 50AU away from the Sun. Hence, a very low level of sunlight falls on it, and researchers only get a few smeary pixels of it. But as its shape is odd, and it completes a rotation in less than four hours, so its measurements have many uncertainties.
But this year, when Haumea was going to pass in front of the star URAT1 533-18253, scientists decided to record its observations and do orbital calculations. The idea behind the observations was that the dwarf planet would block some or all the light from the star and this would help them get new and precise measurements about Haumea’s shape and properties.