Can you name a planet with rings? Yes, that is an easy bit of trivia. But can you name an asteroid with rings of its own? A few days ago, the question would have garnered a chuckle from any descent astronomy buff and they would have gently told you that asteroids do not have rings. Well, obviously they have not had the pleasure of meeting Chariklo – the first asteroid to come with its own set of rings!
Till date, it was only gas giants of the solar system – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune that came with these cosmic engagements bands. Just 155 miles wide Chariklo is obviously no match to the sheer size of the other four.
But its twin rings ensure it gets a place on the same pedestal. An international team of scientists led by Felipe Braga-Ribas of Brazil’s National Observatory in Rio de Janeiro accidentally discovered the rings when they were observing Chariklo pass in front of a distant star.
Known as occultation, the technique uses the disturbance in the light of the star to measure size and dimensions of heavenly bodies along with other details. To the astonishment of the team, the readings showed two minor disturbances before and after the one major blackout; a conclusive sign of the presence of rings.
Images from Space
Categorized officially as a centaur, Chariklo has characteristics of both comets and asteroids. Scientists speculate that a moon next t the comet is the reason for the presence of these two stable rings; a discovery that they say is waiting to happen!