University of Oulu

Morgado, B.E., Sicardy, B., Braga-Ribas, F. et al. A dense ring of the trans-Neptunian object Quaoar outside its Roche limit. Nature 614, 239–243 (2023).

A dense ring of the trans-Neptunian object Quaoar outside its Roche limit

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Author: Morgado, B. E.1,2,3; Sicardy, B.4; Braga-Ribas, F.5;
Organizations: 1Federal University of Rio de Janeiro - Observatory of Valongo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2National Observatory/MCTI, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
3Interinstitutional e-Astronomy Laboratory (LIneA), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
4LESIA, Observatory of Paris, University PSL, CNRS, UPMC, Sorbonne University, University of Paris Diderot, Sorbonne Paris City, Meudon, France
5Federal University of Technology, Paraná (UTFPR/DAFIS), Curitiba, Brazil
6Institute of Astrophysics at Andalucía, IAA-CSIC, Granada, Spain
7Space Physics and Astronomy Research unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
8The Institute of Celestial Mechanics and Ephemeris Calculation (IMCCE), Observatory of Paris, PSL Research University, CNRS, Sorbonne University, UPMC University of Paris, University of Lille, Lille, France
9Polytechnic Institute of Advanced Sciences (IPSA), Ivry-sur-Seine, France
10Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
11Orbital Dynamics and Planetology Group, UNESP - São Paulo State University, Guaratinguetá, Brazil
12Institute of Physics, Federal University of Uberlândia, Uberlândia, Brazil
13Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
14Institute of Astrophysics of The Canary Islands, La Laguna, Spain
15Florida Space Institute, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, USA
16Reedy Creek Observatory, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
17Trans-Tasman Occultation Alliance (TTOA), Wellington, New Zealand
18Samford Valley Observatory (Q79), Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
19Algester Astronomical Observatory, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
20Observatory of the Côte d’Azur, Lagrange Laboratory UMR7293 CNRS, Nice, France
21naXys, University of Namur, Namur, Belgium
22Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD, USA
23International Occultation Timing Association / European Section, Hannover, Germany
24International Amateur Observatory e.V. (IAS), Mittenwalde, Germany
25Institute of Physics, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
26Center for Space and Habitability, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
27STAR Institute, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium
28Heidelberg-Königstuhl State Observatory, Heidelberg, Germany
29Department of Physics, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
30INAF, Catania Astrophysical Observatory, Catania, Italy
31Department of Astronomy, Stockholm University, AlbaNova University Center, Stockholm, Sweden
32Centre for Exoplanet Science, SUPA School of Physics and Astronomy, University of St Andrews, North Haugh, St Andrews, UK
33Astronomical Observatory at the University of Geneva, Versoix, Switzerland
34Oukaimeden Observatory, High Energy Physics and Astrophysics Laboratory, FSSM, Cadi Ayyad University, Marrakech, Morocco
35School of Physical Sciences, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, UK
36Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA
37Laboratory of Astrophysics of Marseille, University of Aix Marseille, CNRS, CNES, Marseille, France
38Astrobiology Research Unit, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium
39Astronomical Association of Queensland, Pimpama, Queensland, Australia
40School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
41Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, UK
42AGORA Observatory of Makes, AGORA, La Rivière, France
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 3.6 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-09-29


Planetary rings are observed not only around giant planets¹, but also around small bodies such as the Centaur Chariklo² and the dwarf planet Haumea³. Up to now, all known dense rings were located close enough to their parent bodies, being inside the Roche limit, where tidal forces prevent material with reasonable densities from aggregating into a satellite. Here we report observations of an inhomogeneous ring around the trans-Neptunian body (50000) Quaoar. This trans-Neptunian object has an estimated radius⁴ of 555 km and possesses a roughly 80-km satellite⁵ (Weywot) that orbits at 24 Quaoar radii⁶,⁷. The detected ring orbits at 7.4 radii from the central body, which is well outside Quaoar’s classical Roche limit, thus indicating that this limit does not always determine where ring material can survive. Our local collisional simulations show that elastic collisions, based on laboratory experiments⁸, can maintain a ring far away from the body. Moreover, Quaoar’s ring orbits close to the 1/3 spin–orbit resonance9 with Quaoar, a property shared by Chariklo’s ²,¹⁰,¹¹ and Haumea’s³ rings, suggesting that this resonance plays a key role in ring confinement for small bodies.

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Series: Nature
ISSN: 0028-0836
ISSN-E: 1476-4687
ISSN-L: 0028-0836
Volume: 614
Issue: 7947
Pages: 239 - 243
DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-05629-6
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 115 Astronomy and space science
Dataset Reference: The observational data that support this paper and other findings of this study are available at the Strasbourg astronomical Data Center (CDS).
Copyright information: © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited 2023.