While NASA has been exploring space for decades, there’s always some new discovery every few years that dramatically changes the way in which we understand the solar system. This time, space researchers have found a phenomenon known as dust rings. These dust rings are fascinating to look at and deeply mysterious. However, they just may hold the key to understanding the way in which planets are formed.
What Are Dust Rings?
Dust rings are exactly what you’d expect them to be. They’re rings of dust that orbit space bodies. So, how does the dust accumulate in the first place? Well, think about what happens when asteroids or comets collide. The impact of the collision results in debris that gets trapped in space. The smaller debris exists in the form of dust particles that get pulled into a planet’s orbit due to its gravitational pull. And, that dust travels around the planet indefinitely.
How Were Dust Rings Discovered?
Dust rings were discovered by chance only very recently by NASA scientists. In fact, these dust rings can easily be seen with a telescope at night. The first dust ring was discovered around Venus, appearing as a ring of haze gently lit by the sun. Then, it was discovered that these dust rings exist around Mercury and Earth.
What’s interesting is that these dust rings stay in orbit because of the strong gravitational pulls of both Earth and Venus. NASA scientists did not believe that Mercury had such a strong pull, but this new discovery has caused them to question previous findings.
It was also believed that, given Mercury’s close proximity to the sun compared to the other planets, solar winds would prevent a dust ring from forming or lasting. However, it’s now clear that there’s more to Mercury’s atmosphere than we once realized.
What Can These Dust Rings Tell Us?
In order to understand the formation of these dust rings, the scientists need to know where the dust is coming from in the first place. The high volume of dust indicates that there is a greater population of asteroids in our solar system than we thought. Otherwise, it would be impossible for such large dust rings to develop.
Currently, researchers are testing a theory that Venus’ orbit sees a massive number of asteroids that collide with each other, causing dust to get trapped in the planet’s orbit.
What’s even more fascinating is that NASA has just recently announced that they discovered rings of dust around a fairly young star in our solar system. The scientists think that this may be a sign that there’s a formation of a planet happening before our eyes as the halo-like effect of the dust rings illuminates this orbit in a way that would have been invisible otherwise.
A New but Interesting Discovery Indeed
Dust rings are an extremely new discovery, meaning that much research will have to be done before we have clear answers regarding their formation. Still, it’s safe to say that this new discovery will reveal a lot about how planets are formed.