Astronomers discover ring around object beyond Neptune


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Observations of the trans-Neptunian object Haumea has revealed that not only is is shaped like a football due to its fast rotation, it has a ring.

Haumea is an interesting object: it rotates around the Sun in an elliptic orbit which takes it 284 years to complete (it presently lies fifty times further from the Sun than the Earth), and it takes 3.9 hours to rotate around its axis, much less than any other body measuring more than a hundred kilometers long in the entire Solar System. This rotational speed causes it to flatten out, giving it an ellipsoid shape similar to a rugby ball. The recently published data reveal that Haumea measures 2.320 kilometers in its largest axis – almost the same as Pluto – but lacks the global atmosphere that Pluto has.

“One of the most interesting and unexpected findings was the discovery of a ring around Haumea. Until a few years ago we only knew of the existence of rings around the giant planets; then, recently, our team discovered that two small bodies situated between Jupiter and Neptune, belonging to a group called centaurs, have dense rings around them, which came as a big surprise. Now we have discovered that bodies even farther away than the centaurs, bigger and with very different general characteristics, can also have rings,” says Pablo Santos-Sanz, another member of the IAA-CSIC team.

The more we see of these distant objects beyond Neptune the more I suspect that they are going to be puffy, not very dense, and surrounded by miscellaneous objects. The gravity and environment that far from the Sun simply allows them to not coalesce as happened in the inner solar system.

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