There’s a rock in the solar system that might be a dwarf planet, according to scientists. They have done some digging by using the Very Large Telescope in northern Chile. They found out that Hygiea is not actually an asteroid, as they initially thought, but a dwarf planet. This makes it the smallest dwarf planet in our entire solar system. The findings were published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
This chance comes after they’ve observed Hygiea in a much better resolution, which allowed them to see what it truly looks like, its true shape and size. The rock is a sphere, which makes them believe it’s a dwarf planet and not an asteroid. This is the fourth largest object found in the asteroid belt after Vesta, Ceres, and Pallas.
Since it is found in the asteroid belt, Hygiea has three out of 4 things in order to be cataloged as a dwarf planet. The first one: it orbits around the Sun. The second: it is not a moon or a satellite of another planet. The third: is not like a full planet, and it has not cleared space around its orbit.
New research shows that it also meets the fourth requirement, as well: a dwarf planet must have enough mass so that that gravity could pull it into a sphere. As said before, the images show that it has the form on a sphere.
Thanks to the capability of the sphere on the VLT, being one of the most powerful imaging systems in the world, they could see clearly Hygiea’s shape, which turned out to be a sphere. This comes from the lead researcher, called Pierre Vernazza, from France, from the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseill.
With the help of these images, Hygiea can be now cataloged as a dwarf planet, the smallest one in our Solar System.