New discovery: the planet Haumea has a ring

Beyond the orbit of Neptune, there is a belt of trans-Neptunian objects that includes four dwarf planets: Pluto, Eris, Makemake and Haumea. The latter is the least known of the four, and thanks to a new study we can now find out more about its characteristics.

Trans-Neptunian objects are difficult to study, but there is an efficient yet complex method of doing so: stellar occultations. This means that these objects can be studied as they pass in front of the stars behind them. In other words, it’s a sort of eclipse.

Haumea is a very intriguing object. It orbits the Sun on an orbital ellipse that takes 284 years, and its rotation is 3.9 hours long, much faster than any other body larger than one hundred kilometres wide in the Solar System. This speed results in the deformation of Haumea, which is shaped somewhat like a rugby ball.

However, the most important aspect of this study is the discovery of a ring around Haumea. Until recently, the existence of rings was associated with giant planets, but new research has allowed us to discover that other, more distant bodies may also have them. The cause of the formation of this ring is unknown, although hypotheses include a collision with another object or the liberation of surface material as a result of Haumea’s great speed.

Below is a link with additional information: Nuevo hallazgo: el planeta Haumea tiene anillo


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