The cosmic ring approximately 15 million km wide was found around Mercury. Researchers have previously believed that Mercury, as a small, rocky and
The cosmic ring approximately 15 million km wide was found around Mercury. Researchers have previously believed that Mercury, as a small, rocky and barren planet, was too close to the Sun to sustain a cosmic ring. A cosmic ring is made up of left over crumbling asteroids, matter and comets the existed during the creation of the solar system.
Astrophysicists from the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington on accident came upon the trail of cosmic dust while attempting to develop new techniques to research solar activity.
Similar cosmic rings have been known to exist around Earth and Venus but Mercury was never thought to be able to sustain one.
Astrophysicist at the Naval Research Laboratory Dr Russell Howard said: “People thought that Mercury, unlike Earth or Venus, is too small and to close to the sun to capture a dust ring.
“They expected that the solar wind and magnetic forces from the Sun would blow any excess dust at Mercury’s orbit away.”
During the scientists work to look for a better method to observe the sun’s atmosphere or corona – they decided to keep old data on different kinds of light emitted by space particles that magnify light.
They used NASA’s Solar and Terrestrial Relational Observatory (STEREO) satellite and Parker Solar Probe to discover increased level of brightness surrounding Mercury.
After discovering this they were able to calculate an excess concentration of dust of approximately 3-5 percent at the centre of the ring.
Dr Howard said: “It wasn’t an isolated ting. All around the sun, regardless of the spacecrafts’s position we could see the same five percent increase in dust brightness, or density.
“That said, something was there, and it’s something that extends all around the sun.”
The findings present a different perspective on traditional conceptions of gravity in our solar system.
An astrophysicist from the Goddard Space Flight Centre and co-author of a study hypothesising a group of asteroids orbiting Venus said the space dust research was “exciting”.
His study looked into a similar ring of space dust forming around Venus.
Dr Goddard said: “It is not every day you get to discover something new in the inner solar system”.