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Beyond Earthly Skies

Rings of Chariklo

1 Jul 2014, 22:00 UTC
Rings of Chariklo ESO/L. Calçada/M. Kornmesser/Nick Risinger
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One of the most spectacular sights in the Solar System has got to be Saturn’s majestic rings. Over the years, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has captured the beauty of Saturn’s ring system in breathtaking detail. Less prominent ring systems also exist around Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune. Apart from the giant planets, no rings are known to exist around any other smaller objects until the surprising discovery by F. Braga-Ribas et al. (2014) of two narrow rings around a minor planet named Chariklo. With an estimated size of ~250 km, Chariklo is the largest known Centaur - a group of objects orbiting the Sun in a region of space between Saturn and Uranus. Chariklo is believed to be a former trans-Neptunian object that was recently (i.e. less than 10 million years ago) gravitationally perturbed by Uranus into a closer orbit around the Sun.Figure 1: An artist’s impression showing a close-up of what Chariklo and its rings might look like. Image credit: ESO/L. Calçada/M. Kornmesser/Nick Risinger.On 3 June 2013, the occultation of a faint background star by Chariklo was predicted to be observable from South America. A number of telescopes at various sites across South America took measurements of the occultation event. A ...

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