Researchers observing a background star cross behind Quaoar, a dwarf planet within the Kuiper belt, discovered that the distant object has a hoop system not like any beforehand present in our photo voltaic system.
The workforce didn’t instantly observe the ring system; they detected it because of the means gentle behind Quaoar dimmed because the planetoid handed in entrance of it. The dwarf planet, discovered back in 2002, takes 288 years to finish an orbit across the Solar. The workforce’s research is revealed right now in Nature.
According to the Planetary Society, ring programs can kind in a few methods. They kind round planets when the latter’s gravitational power tears up smaller our bodies round it, resembling moons. Others, like Jupiter’s, are fashioned by mud particles which can be kicked up from the planet’s moons by micrometeoroid impacts.
“Everybody learns about Saturn’s magnificent rings once they’re a baby, so hopefully this new discovering will present additional perception into how they got here to be,” stated Vik Dhillon, an astronomer on the College of Sheffield and co-author of the paper, in a college launch.
HiPERCAM—a digicam on the 34-foot-wide Gran Telescopio Canarias in Spain—captured the ring system throughout an occultation occasion.
When Quaoar (pronounced kwa-wahr) passed in front of the background star, the star’s light dimmed thrice—once during the occultation itself, but also briefly before and after. That indicated to researchers that there is a mass on either side of the dwarf planet; they believe it to be a ring system far flung from the planetoid itself.
While the ring system itself is interesting, the distance from Quaoar at which it sits is astonishing, circling at more than seven times the radius of the dwarf planet. By contrast, Saturn’s main rings are within just three planetary radii from the luminous gas giant. At about 690 miles (1,100 kilometers) wide, Quaoar is a bit under half the size of Pluto.
“It was doubly unexpected to find the rings so far out from Quaoar, challenging our previous notions of how such rings form,” Dhillon said.
More observations of Quaoar’s system may shed light on its composition and origins. Quaoar has now pushed the boundaries of what astronomers thought ring structures could look like; it’s incumbent on other celestial bodies to show us if Quaoar is part of a rule or an exception.