Astronomers found a ring around a dwarf planet beyond Neptune

A thin band of debris circles the dwarf planet Haumea in an illustration based on the latest discovery.	ILLUSTRATION BY IAA-CSIC  UHU

A thin band of debris circles the dwarf planet Haumea in an illustration based on the latest discovery. ILLUSTRATION BY IAA-CSIC UHU

This handout photo released by Nature shows an artistic view of Haumea and its ring system with correct proportions for the main body and the ring.

Now, with the find at Haumea, the answer seems to be no: "It means it's likely that there's nothing unusual about these rings, or they're at least an occasional aspect of solar system bodies", Showalter says.

It wasn't just rings that the team were looking out for however, as it also gave astronomers an opportunity to analyse its shape, and it could be about to jeopardise its status as a dwarf planet.

To learn more about this particular dwarf planet, Ortiz and his colleagues worked out that on 12 January this year Haumea would pass in front of a distant star, known by the catchy title URAT1 533-182543, giving them the ideal opportunity to study it in more detail.

An global team of astronomers found Haumea's ring by watching it from observatories across Europe as it crossed in front of the distant star, URAT1 533- 182543, on 21 January 2017.

The researchers revealed that Haumea is surrounded by a ring of material that's roughly 43 miles in width.

This new finding may assist scientists in understanding the reason behind ring formation, and the process of the same.

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Konstantin Batygin, CalTech planetary astrophysicist, wasn't surprised. As a result, the team was able to pick up certain things about the dwarf planet, including the possibility of having a ring.

Haumea's discovery in 2005 was contentious.

New research published today in the journal Nature and led by Jose Ortiz from the Sierra Nevada Observatory in Granada, Spain, adds some new information to the dwarf planet's fact file. But it appeared that someone at Ortiz's institution had been sifting through famous planet hunter (and Batygin's now-partner) Mike Brown's online notes showing the object just before the announcement. Counted among other five dwarf planets, Pluto, Ceres, Eris and Makemake, the rugby-ball shaped Haumea is also known for its peculiar and rapid rotation, spinning end-over- end once every four hours.

"Prior to our work, researchers thought that Haumea was made mostly of rock and that it had a relatively thin crust of water ice", Ortiz told BuzzFeed News.

The rings could be key to figuring out Haumea's history.

Before this discovery, only four planets in our solar system were considered as ring planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. The most surprising item learned was that it has rings. And it's what makes a dwarf planet a planet (according to the definition the IAU came up with), and not just a "small solar system body".

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