'Impossible' ring system discovered around dwarf planet
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Astronomers have discovered an entirely new system of rings in the solar system. It is located at such a great distance from its dwarf parent planet that it was previously thought impossible.
The ring surrounds the planet Quaoar, which is about half the size of Pluto and is located beyond Neptune. It is only the third ring around a minor planet and the seventh ring system in the solar system, with the most famous and well-studied rings surrounding the giant planets Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus.< br />
“All six planets with ring systems have rings fairly close to the surface of the planet. So it really challenges our theories of ring formation,” — study co-author Vic Dillon, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Sheffield in England, told Live Science.
The ring system is located seven planetary radii from Quaoar, twice the theoretical maximum limit for a ring system known as the Roche limit. In comparison, the bulk of Saturn's rings are only three planetary radii from the gas giant.
It used to be thought that rings that exceeded the Roche limit could not survive this far from their parent body.
However, Dillon and his team believe that Quaoar's ring formed in a similar fashion to other rings in the solar system: collisions of the moons orbiting the parent planet created debris that settled into a ring of rock, ice, and dust particles.
< br /> Researchers discovered the ring system while investigating whether Quaoar has an atmosphere. “The discovery came as a surprise, — Dillon said. “We knew it was possible to find them, but we weren't really looking for them.”
The Ring of Quaoar is too small and too faint to be seen with a space telescope. eclipses, the only way to detect the rings of dwarf planets — send a robotic probe to them.
“This discovery shows you the amazing variety of things that are in our own space backyard. You don't have to look light years into a distant universe to find the unexpected. There are still many surprises in our solar system”, — noted the researcher.
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