Dwarf planet Haumea has its own ring system

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We think that ring systems can form in different ways: They could be cobbled together from material left over from a planet's own formation, formed when a passing lump of rock is captured and broken up, or even, in the case of Saturn's E-ring, constantly replenished from ice spewing out of an orbiting moon. This allowed the planetary researchers to build a better theory about the size and shape of dwarf planet.

As the researchers suggest in their new work, published Wednesday, Oct. 11, in the journal Nature, ring systems in the outer Solar System are not uncommon.

It is estimated that the rings could be as wide as 70km and encircles the planet at a distance of around 1,000km from its surface.

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. We know the dwarf planet itself reflects about half the sunlight that shines on it, and that it doesn't have an atmosphere.

It wasn't until 2008 that the International Astronomical Union (IAU) officially classified it as the fifth dwarf planet, gave it the name Haumea - a suggestion that came from the U.S. team - and left the name of its discoverer blank. In fact, it might be taken out of the "dwarf planets list" that the astronomers composed. The team, made up of worldwide astronomers, watched the dwarf planet briefly pass in front of a star, which blocked out that star's light.

The number of ringed solar objects seems to be increasing in the outer realm of the solar system. When Haumea passed in front of a star called URAT1 533-182543 on January 21 of this year, scientists were able to view the dwarf planet with 12 telescopes from ten different labs. Now, after finding a ring around Haumea, rings should not come as a surprise anymore.

The presumption that only larger planets like Saturn can host rings has been busted. The event that marked the presence of a ring-like structure was noted in the telescopes; before and after Haumea blotted out the star, the telescopes also saw the starlight slightly fade out again.Scientists also predict that the use of occultation to find a ring around Haumea may help others detect rings around similar distant objects. And for some reason, a significant part of them have rings.