Hygiea – A Possible New Dwarf Planet

In News

IT is not yet official but a new dwarf planet has been found in our solar system. It is tentatively named ‘Hygiea’.

In-Detail

  • So far, five dwarf planets have been officially recognized as part of our solar system.
  • Famous among them is Pluto which had been downgraded from the status of a planet.
  • The other four are:
    • Eris
    • Makemake
    • Haumea
    • Ceres
  • Now, Hygiea is the new claimant to the dwarf planet status.

Hygiea

  • Located between Mars and Juputer, Hygiea is so far considered as an asteroid.
  • The new dwarf planet was found by astronomers using the SPHERE instrument of the European Space Agency at Very Large Telescope (VLT).
  • If Hygiea qualifies for the dwarf planet status of the International Astronomical Union, it will become the smallest dwarf planet.
  • IAU has set four criteria for a dwarf planet:
    • It must orbit around the Sun
    • It is not a moon to any object
    • It has not cleared the neighbourhood around the orbit
    • It has enough mass that its own gravity pulls it into a spherical shape
  • Hygiea already satisfies the first three criteria.
  • With VLT observations, the fourth requirement has also been confirmed by the astronomers.

VLT

  • Very Large Telescope (VLT) is the world’s most advanced visible-light telescope.
  • It is totally operated by the European Space Agency.
  • VLT is located in the Atacama desert.
  • There are four individual telescopes.
  • Each telescope has a primary mirror of 8.2 across.
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