The Extra-Wide Ring of a Dwarf Planet Has Scientists Rethinking Planetary Mechanics

On the frontier of the solar system, scientists may have unearthed a significant finding.

Some astronomers are perplexed by Quaoar, a dwarf planet with a ring because it appears to contradict long-standing laws of planetary science: its rings extend out more than twice as far as previously believed permissible.

*Image source:

“It was surprising to find this new ring system in our solar system and even more surprising to find the rings so far away from Quaoar. This changes our ideas about how these rings form,” said Professor Vik Dhillon of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.

According to NASA, the planet is a dwarf because it has enough mass to create a sphere but has not “cleared the area surrounding its orbit.”

*Image source:

Quaoar was discovered by coincidence when it crossed in front of a star during its journey around the sun. It completes one revolution around the sun every 288 years and is just 620 million miles distant from Pluto. The diameter of the dwarf planet, as determined by the Hubble Space Telescope, is 690 miles, significantly smaller than Earth’s 7,930 miles.