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The second ring around the dwarf planet Quaoar baffles researchers – it contradicts physics

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from: Tanya Banner

Artist’s impression of the dwarf planet Qawar. © Imago / NASA

The dwarf planet Quaoar has not one, but two rings, which surprises researchers because they contradict current physics.

Rio de Janeiro – The Quaoar orb is the seventh largest dwarf planet in an extra-Neptunian orbit, and is called the Trans-Neptunian Object (TNO). Discovered in 2002, it is known to be about 1,120 kilometers in diameter and orbited by the young moon Wewot. Since February 2023, researchers have also known that Quaoar has a ring — a ring that contradicts previous physical assumptions.

Now a major international research team has made a new discovery: while examining the ring around Quaoar, which had just been discovered, the team accidentally discovers another ring. It also contradicts the assumptions that research has made so far that it applies to rings around celestial bodies.

The dwarf planet Quaoar has two rings – which contradicts physics

The current scientific state is that the rings around the celestial bodies must be within what is called the Roche limit. Rings outside these boundaries, according to the theory, will merge into a young moon in a few decades. All known rings in the solar system lie within the Roche boundary of its celestial body – with the exception of two Quaoar rings. The dwarf planet’s Roche limit is about 1,780 kilometers, and the rings are located at about 4,100 and 2,400 kilometers from the surface.

“It was a big surprise,” said Cristian Luciano Pereira (National Observatory of Brazil). the The New York Times. “This suggests that Quaoar is a much more complex system than we originally thought.” Pereira studies the dwarf planet Quaoar and participates in the current study of the second ring, in the journal Astronomy and astrophysics must be published And ready on a prepress server ArXiv published had become.

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Rings of Quaoar detected through stellar clouds

Quaoar’s rings cannot be seen in a telescope. Astronomers could only find them indirectly, through the so-called “stellar fantasies”. A distant star passing behind Quaoar, the dwarf planet blocks its starlight for a short time. Between 2018 and 2021, Quaoar passed in front of four stars — an opportunity researchers jumped at, noting that the dwarf planet is surrounded by a ring.

Another occultation occurred in August 2022. Observe Quaoar again to learn more about the amazing episode. These observations revealed the second episode. On May 13th there will be another stellar occultation by Quaoar, which research wants to use. Associated with a bright star, this event would be useful to better constrain the shape of Quaoar, but also a good opportunity to gain more details about these two remarkable rings, Pereira explains.

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The research already has a preliminary explanation for the mysterious Quaoar rings: They could have something to do with the existence of the young moon Weywot. The theory goes that the moon may have caused gravitational perturbations that prevent the particles that make up the ring from becoming a moon. Weywot may prove more important than the Roche limit, but the research continues. (unpaid bill)