Scientists have found that the fifth dwarf planet of the Solar System, Haumea, and its two satellites, (Hi”iaka and Namaka) are covered in crystalline water-ice, making them shine in the darkness of space.
Observations from the SINFONI instrument of the Very Large Telescope (VLT), the enormous telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile, were used to carry out the study.
ESO astronomer Christophe Dumas from the observatory led the study.
The tiny and strange planet Haumea moves beyond the orbit of Neptune. It has the shape of a flattened rugby ball and is around 2,000 km long.
It spins completely in less than four hours, at one of the fastest rotation speeds in the Solar System.
Now an international research team has confirmed that 75 percent of Haumea and 100 percent of Hi”iaka (which is around 400 km in diameter) are covered with crystallised water-ice (with an ordered structure) and not, as would have been expected, with amorphous ice disorganised due to solar radiation.
The study suggested that the planet is made up of a frozen outer layer and an internal section made up of between 88 percent and 97 percent rock.
The findings were published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.