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50000 Quaoar, 2002 LM60

Potential Dwarf Planet of the Solar System

A relatively large body, potentially belonging to the classification of a dwarf planet, that orbits the Sun beyond Neptune in region known as the Kuiper Belt. Bodies of this kind, known as cubewanos, are conventionally named for creator deities from different mythologies, and Quaoar takes its name from such a being from the tales of the Tongva Native American culture. There is no standard pronunciation of its name: the simple kwa-war is commonplace, but the name is also sometimes pronounced kwa-o-ar.

When it was discovered in 2002, Quaoar was the largest such body known, and it was thus given the significant designation '50000' to mark the event (though it has since been surpassed by the discovery of several other, larger, objects in the outer Solar System). With a diameter of more than 1,000 km, Quaoar is roughly half the size of the dwarf planet Pluto.

Quaoar orbits the Sun at a distance of 43.3 AU, following an orbital path that is close to circular and also close to the plane of the Solar System. This is relatively unusual for a body in this region of space: similar objects commonly exhibit highly eccentric and inclined orbits.

Physically, little is known for sure about Quaoar. Its mass implies that it is probably spherical, but this is not known for certain. It has a generally reddish colouration, and there is evidence for cryovolcanic activity, with liquid ice being thrust out from the interior and spreading across the surface. Quaoar has a single known moonlet, a tiny object named Weywot for the son of Quaoar in the Tongva mythology.


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