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Space & Astronomy

Distant dwarf planet has its own unique ring system

By T.K. Randall
February 10, 2023 · Comment icon 5 comments



An artist's impression of Quaoar and its rings. Image Credit: Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia
It turns out that Saturn and the other gas giants are not the only planetary bodies in our solar system to have rings.
Up until relatively recently, it was thought that only Saturn had rings, but as it happens, all of the gas giants in our solar system are home to rings (some being more pronounced than others).

Now, though, it seems as though rings might not even be limited to the gas giants; new astronomical observations have identified what appear to be rings around the dwarf planet known as Quaoar.

This tiny, icy world is situated far out in the Kuiper Belt and takes 288 years to complete one orbit.
Astronomers didn't observe the rings directly, but instead watched Quaoar as it passed in front of a background star and then analyzed the way its light dimmed during that time.

Its rings are particularly unusual because they orbit at a distance of 7 times the radius of the dwarf planet itself.

Exactly how such a ring system came to form curently remains unclear.

"It was doubly unexpected to find the rings so far out from Quaoar, challenging our previous notions of how such rings form," said astronomer Vik Dhillon of the University of Sheffield.

Source: Gizmodo | Comments (5)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Alchopwn 4 months ago
I didn't know there were dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt, let alone one called Quaoar (A somewhat mis-spelled imo deity name from the Californian Uto-Aztec language Tongva), let alone that Quaoar itself had a ring.† All a bit amazing.† I feel as if this is the new fact I learned today. Thanks Waspie-Dwarf.
Comment icon #2 Posted by fred_mc 4 months ago
There are several dwarf planets in the Kuiper belt. Other examples are Sedna and Eris, and Pluto is also a Kuiper belt dwarf planet.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Alchopwn 4 months ago
Really?† Pluto and Eris are in the Kuiper Belt?† I thought they were just outermost orbits of the Solar System.† Have I been alseep?† What else did I miss?
Comment icon #4 Posted by fred_mc 4 months ago
Yes, you can read about it here:†https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuiper_belt†. Now I actually just read on that Wikipedia page that Neptune's moon Triton, which is bigger than Pluto, is probably a captured Kuiper belt object. Interesting, I didn't know that.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 4 months ago
It's one of the main reasons that Pluto was re-designated from planet to dwarf planet, because it was just one of potentially dozens or even hundreds of such objects in the Kuiper Belt. † They aren't even close to the outer edge of the solar system. Way beyond the Kuiper Belt is a roughly spherical region of millions of comet like objects called the Oort Cloud. The Kuiper Belt extends from just outside Neptune's orbit at about 30 AU to around 50 AU. The Oort cloud stars at about 2,000 AU and extends maybe as far as 200,000 AU... which is more than ĺ of the way to Alpha Centauri,


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