Solar System First: Asteroid With Rings
'Centaur' has only rings seen outside gas giants
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Mar 27, 2014 3:09 AM CDT
An artist's impression of Chariklo and its twin rings.   (European Southern Observatory)

(Newser) – Only five bodies in the solar system are known to have rings: The gas giants Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, and Uranus—and Chariklo, a remote asteroid just 154 miles across. Astronomers say they were amazed to spot two rings made up of billion of bits of dust and ice circling the asteroid, which orbits between Saturn and Uranus, CNN reports. "Until now, we had no idea that anything but the giant planets could have rings," a NASA astronomer says, calling the discovery "amazingly cool."

Chariklo is the biggest of a class of objects with unstable orbits known as "centaurs" because they seem part asteroid and part comet, National Geographic explains. The European Southern Observatory astronomer who first spotted the rings says he almost jumped out of his seat when he realized what he had found. His team is now searching for rings around other small bodies, and they believe they may have already spotted another object with similar rings.

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Showing 3 of 25 comments
iq145
Mar 27, 2014 9:49 PM CDT
Why are they so amazed? This is how planets form. It's how the Earth first formed...
Izman15
Mar 27, 2014 3:27 PM CDT
What I want to find is a "ring" spinning around nothing. If the objects were spaced perfectly and their orbit was big enough the net gravitational pull would keep them circling around a neutral space. It's kinda like two equal size objects orbiting around one another but with thousands maybe even millions of particles. Physics, make it so.
StationaryMan
Mar 27, 2014 8:58 AM CDT
This time will become known as the age of planetary bling inflation. First it rings around the planetary body followed by piercings, first equatorial, then some whacko planet will dare to pierce it's polar regions. Of course hopefully this will be followed by a period of conservatism and planets will try to achieve a "naturalism", "I'm beautiful just as I am". Of course during this time we will still have the renegades, those planets who think of themselves as individuals. Of course they won't be they will simply be emulating a smaller sub-culture, but you know what they say, "If you love something you must let it go to be the planet it was destined to be". And that's all I have to say about this.