New Discoveries: An Impossible new ring system?

By: Noah Ramos

Recently a new ring system has been spotted at the edge of our solar system and it belongs to a dwarf planet by the name of Quaoar. However, this ring baffles astronomers because its distance from its dwarf planet parent shouldn’t be possible according to the information known about ring formations around planets. But this phenomena changes what we thought about ring formations and means that the ring formation theory is going to change based on how it can be explained by this new ring. Previously it was thought that rings can only form within the Roche limit and anything beyond the limit would be too unstable to survive outside since they accrete into moonlets. Quaoar’s ring is different since the ring is made up from debris such as rock, ice, and dust particles that resulted from moonlets colliding. The particles normally cannot reform a moonlet if they are within the Roche limit since they get torn apart which also prevents clumping. However, the particles that make up the ring are constantly colliding with each other and if the particles have an icy coating could cause elastic collision. Elastic collision is when two objects collide and bounce off each other like a bouncy ball. Surprisingly the ring was found accidentally while checking to see if Quaoar had an atmosphere. The researchers were lucky enough to have seen it when it caused a dip in light from a star in the background; the event is known as occultation and lasted for less than a minute.


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