Science & Tech

Rare ring spotted around dwarf planet and astronomers are baffled

Rare ring spotted around dwarf planet and astronomers are baffled
A Mysterious Ring Surrounding Dwarf Planet Puzzles Astronomers

Astronomers have been left baffled following the discovery of a ring around a dwarf planet.

The rare occurrence has been observed inside our solar system around a newly discovered mini-planet, named Quaoar.

Quaoar is around half the size of Pluto and orbits the Sun past Neptune.

What makes the ring around Quaoar unusual is the distance between the system and the planet. Usually, ring systems, while rare, are possible because they orbit their planet closely.

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However, the one surrounding Quaoar is orbiting much further from the mini planet than astronomers would normally expect.

In fact, the rare ring is actually double the distance away from the planet that was considered to be the maximum range.

Kevin Gill/Creative Commons

Professor Vik Dhillon from the University of Sheffield said: "It was unexpected to discover this new ring system in our Solar System and it was doubly unexpected to find the rings so far out from Quaoar, challenging our previous notions of how such rings form.

"Everyone learns about Saturn's magnificent rings when they're a child, so hopefully this new finding will provide further insight into how they came to be.”

Ring systems – even those less unusual than the one around Quaoar – are less common than you might expect.

While Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune have them, Chariklo and Haumea are the only minor planets to have them.

It’s also lucky that Quaoar’s rings were ever discovered in the first place. The ring was too small to be seen by the telescope, and only revealed themselves after light from a star was blocked by Quaoar as it made its way around the sun.

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