|It's not rocket science, it's...|
|The Final Frontier|
|The abyss stares back|
50000 Quaoar ("Kwawar") is a dwarf planet[note 1] found in the Kuiper Belt (thereby rendering it a Kuiper Belt Object, or KBO) located approximately 1.6 billion kilometers (roughly equivalent to 1 billion miles, or 42 astronomical units (AU)[note 2]) from the Sun.
Quaoar is named after, well, Quaoar, the creator deity of the indigenous Tongva of California. The team that discovered Quaoar named it this in line with the International Astronomical Union's (IAU) decree that all non-resonant KBOs must be named after creator deities.
Chad Trujillo and Michael E. Brown discovered Quaoar with a 48-inch wide telescope at Palomar Observatory at the California Institute of Technology. Using the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to measure its width and diameter, they found it to be around 800 miles in diameter. Specifically, because the HST has much better resolution than any ground-based telescope, they were able to measure Quaoar's size about ten times over the course of an hour by comparing it to a nearby star.
It takes around 288 Earth years to complete one "Quaoarian" orbit. It is also composed primarily of various volatile elements and rocks. It also apparently has a moon, named Weywot[note 5] (about 40 km across).
A 2023 paper in Nature revealed that Quaoar has a ring. While this itself isn't unusual (plenty of Outer Solar System objects have rings), the fact that Quaoar's rings lie outside its Roche limit is. Because Quaoar has a moon, what is expected to happen is that Quaoar's rings should've been gravitationally shepherded into a moon. That has not happened however. Scientists hypothesize this is because the sheer cold of the Kuiper Belt prevents the rings from coalescing into larger objects, but until more research is done this is just speculation.
John Hartnett in the Journal of Creation claims that the composition of Quaoar's surface, being water and ammonia, is "clear evidence" in favor of a young solar system. He uses it to argue against a 5-billion-year timescale, as the smooth ice surface "would have worn away" in just a few million years. Jonathan Sarfati has also taken the time to reassure us that Quaoar, like the comets, was created on the fourth day.
In reality, the surface, like that of Pluto, is thought to refresh itself through cryovolcanism.[note 6] This explains Quaoar's relatively fresh surface in a way that doesn't violate the laws of physics. Of course, even if cryovolcanism wasn't the answer to the problem of Quaoar's young (on astronomical scales) surface, that wouldn't mean God is the answer. We'd have to take into account all possible physical processes before even thinking of invoking a supernatural causal factor.
- Or maybe not. It's currently a Trans-Neptunian Object or TNO and is one of the potential dwarf planets out there
- One AU is equivalent to the distance between the Earth and the Sun, or roughly 93 million miles (150 million kilometers).
- There's a debate over whether Charon is a moon or not. This is because rather than orbiting Pluto, Charon and Pluto orbit each other.
- Unless Quaoar has cleared out its orbital neighborhood, which being a KBO it obviously hasn't, it is not a planet.
- After the son of the aforementioned Tongva creator god.
- The temperatures in the Kuiper Belt are cold, extremely so, meaning that the conducting mechanism of geological activity isn't rock as it is here on Earth, but water instead.
- FAQ about Quaoar - Chad Trujillo's homepage
- How are minor planets named?
- Quaoar: Planetoid Beyond Pluto
- Tiny dwarf planet Quaoar has a mysterious ring
- "The Waters Above" - CMI Mobile. Archived from the original.
- "Comets - Portents of doom or indicators of youth?" - Jonathan Sarfati. Creation Ministries International. Archived from the original webpage.
- David Jewitt: Kuiper Belt: Latest Research
- "A Horoscope I'd like to see" - Ian Musgrave on The Panda's Thumb blog