An international team of astronomers has used telescopes at seven locations in South America to make a surprise discovery in the outer Solar System. h/t to Spaceweather.com
The announcement today was of the discovery of rings around the asteroid Chariklo is a surprise and it joins four other much larger bodies (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune) in the solar system known to have rings.
Chariklo’s rings were discovered when during an occultation, the light from the star was temporarily blocked by the asteroid. But researchers noticed two short dips in the star’s brightness before and after the occultation. The resulting data revealed two rings, one seven and one three kilometres wide, with a nine-kilometre gap in-between.
The rings sit 1,000 times closer to Chariklo than the moon does to Earth. The researchers think the rings formed from debris left over from a collision of an object with Chariklo or between two objects orbiting it. That debris was shaped into rings by one or more undiscovered small “shepherd” moons — about a kilometre across — embedded in the rings themselves.