Astronomers Just Discovered a Mysterious ring around a dwarf planet beyond Neptune which Breaks the rules of physics

In a newly conducted study, astronomers discovered that a mini planet orbiting the sun beyond Neptune has a Saturn-link ring of dust and debris around it. The new study revealed that the existence of this mysterious ring around the dwarf planet defies the rules of physics. What should you know about this dwarf planet? Continue reading to find out.

What You Should Know about the Dwarf Planet with Mysterious Ring Around It

The dwarf planet with a mysterious ring is known as Quaoar and it was first discovered in 2002 as the seventh largest known dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt region. Pluto remains the largest known dwarf planet in the region of the solar system. Quaoar is about 697 miles wide (1,121 kilometers) and it is referred to as one of the trans-Neptunian objects. This implies that the dwarf planet belongs to the class of small planets orbiting the sun beyond the solar system’s outermost planet, Neptune.

Quaoar is one of the most popular dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt as it owns a moon named Weywot which is about 100 miles wide (160 km). Despite the scientific observations conducted on this dwarf planet, scientists are still anxious to learn more about its existence. A recent observation conducted on Quaoar revealed that it has a ring of material in its orbit. Seeing a ring around a planet is not something new.

Since our biggest gas giants including Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, and Uranus all have some rings around their orbit, scientists shouldn’t see anything wrong with Quaoar possessing a ring around its orbit. In fact, Haumea, one of the trans-Neptunian objects also has a ring, which astronomers understand the actual reason behind the existence of its ring. But the researchers that participated in this study found something odd with Quaoar’s ring.

But what made Quaoar’s ring stand out? Unlike most celestial bodies with rings in the solar system, Quaoar’s ring surrounds the dwarf planet at an unusual distance from the planet. To clearly verify the unusual nature of this ring, astronomers used several telescopes to observe the dwarf planet and its mysterious ring between 2018 and 2021.

They previously thought that a ring couldn’t exist at such a distance around the planet’s body. However, the series of observations conducted on Quaoar and its rings is making scientists think otherwise.

What You Should Know about Quaoar’s Ring

Quaoar’s ring maintains a radius of about 2,420 miles (3,885 km) from the dwarf planet’s center. This implies that the ring is extremely far away from the dwarf planet and its gravity should no longer be strong enough to keep the ring’s materials together. Scientists thought that ring materials should have come together to form another moon around the dwarf planet and serve as a companion to Weywot.

Astronomers think that the mysterious ring exceeded the Roche limit and it remains the first known ring around a celestial body to attain such a milestone. Scientists hope to conduct further observation to see the actual cause of this mysterious ring around a dwarf planet.

“What is so intriguing about this discovery around Quaoar is that the ring of material is much farther out than the Roche limit,” Giovanni Bruno, an astronomer at Italy’s National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) and one of the authors of the paper, said in a European Space Agency (ESA) statement. “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.”

How the Mysterious Ring of the dwarf planet was Discovered

Astronomers spotted the mysterious ring of Quaoar during several occultations. During some eclipses, Quaoar often passes between Earth and several distant but brighter stars. Astronomers took advantage of these astronomical events to discover the mysterious ring around the dwarf planet.

Whenever an occultation occurs, the light coming from the background star often dims for a short period. Astronomers deploy very sensitive telescopes in detecting these temporal dims. ESA’s exoplanet hunter Cheops was one of these highly sensitive telescopes that enabled astronomers to observe Quaoar occultations and discover the ring.

After observing each occultation, astronomers often study the obtained data. Hence, after recently analyzing the data obtained during Quaoar occultation, they discovered that the main dip in the background stars’ brightness is accompanied by two smaller drops. Since drops were detected before and after the main occultation, the scientists assume that Quaoar must have a ring around its orbit.

Astronomers are considering rethinking the Roche limit or probably conducting more observations to explain the actual reason behind the existence of the ring around Quaoar. The outcome of this study was published on Wednesday (Feb. 8) in the journal Nature.


Scientific study like this one often improves our knowledge about astronomy. However, scientists are working towards discovering the actual reason behind the existence of Quaoar’s ring. What do you think about this scientific discovery?

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