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Scientists confused after finding a ring around dwarf planet. They can't figure out why it exists

The planet, Quaoar, is one of the 3,000 dwarf planets called trans-Neptunian objects that are located beyond Neptune's orbits.

Scientists confused after finding a ring around dwarf planet. They can't figure out why it exists
Image Source: OneIndia/Youtube

Space is still a vastly unexplored category that reveals stranger things with each new discovery. Recently, a dwarf planet in the farthest regions of the solar system has been confusing scientists. They have discovered a thick ring surrounding the planet, according to telescope data. The finding was made, said the researchers at the European Space Agency, using information and observations of the planet Quaoar gathered between 2018 and 2021 from the ground and space-based observatories, per CBS News.



 

A phenomenon known as an occultation occurred as Quaoar passed in front of a string of far-off stars, obstructing their light as it did so. The planet's ring was seen when that light was refracted by it. The ESA said that because the alignment of the planet, stars, and telescope must be exact, occultations are typically challenging to learn from. Bruno Morgado of the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro said, "When we put everything together, we saw drops in brightness that were not caused by Quaoar, but that pointed to the presence of material in a circular orbit around it. The moment we saw that we said, 'Okay, we are seeing a ring around Quaoar."



 

Quaoar is one of around 3,000 dwarf planets called trans-Neptunian objects that are located beyond Neptune's orbit. The ESA says that since Quaoar's ring is located "at a distance of almost seven and a half times the radius of Quaoar," scientists are now perplexed as to why the dense material in the ring has not coalesced to create a tiny moon. Quaoar is not the only dwarf planet with rings, albeit they are uncommon. According to the ESA, two more, Chariklo and Haumea, have been discovered by ground-based observations. The positioning of Quaoar's ring, though, adds intrigue.

They further reported that dense ring systems are typically found inside a planet's Roche limit. The point at which a celestial object would disintegrate into many bits all around it is known as the Roche limit. For instance, it would be anticipated that the Earth's moon would fragment into several parts, maybe creating a ring, if it reached the Roche limit of the planet. Scientists are baffled as to why Quaoar's thick ring exists as a ring rather than a moon because it is well outside the Roche limit. 



 

Giovanni Bruno of Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics said, "As a result of our observations, the classical notion that dense rings survive only inside the Roche limit of a planetary body must be thoroughly revised." The frigid temperatures on Quaoar are one early theory as to why the thick ring has not developed into a moon. The frosty specks may not succeed in sticking and coalescing due to the cold. 

Due to their tiny sizes and great distances, it is challenging to study these dwarf planets. At roughly 44 times the distance between the Sun and Earth, Quaoar circles the Sun. Occultations are thus extremely useful instruments. However, it has been challenging to anticipate precisely when and where they will occur up until recently.