The ring you weren’t expecting on Valentine’s Day 💍 #shorts


During a break from looking at planets around other stars, ESA’s CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite (Cheops) mission has observed a dwarf planet in our own Solar System and made a decisive contribution to the discovery of a dense ring of material around it.

Studying these dwarf planets is difficult because of their small sizes and extreme distances. Quaoar itself orbits the Sun at almost 44 times the Sun-Earth distance. So, occultations are particularly valuable tools. Until recently, however, it has been difficult to predict exactly when and where they will take place.

For an occultation to occur, the alignment between the occulting object (here the TNO), the star, and the observing telescope must be extremely precise. In the past, it has been almost impossible to meet the stringent accuracy requirements to be certain of seeing an event. Nevertheless, to pursue this goal the European Research Council Lucky Star project, coordinated by Bruno Sicardy, Sorbonne University & Paris Observatory – PSL (LESIA), was created to predict upcoming occultations by TNOs, and to co-ordinate the observation of these events from professional and amateur observatories around the globe.

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