Ring around the rosie … er, asteroid

asteroidrings
Artist conception of Chariklo’s ring system. Image: Lucie Maquet

For the first time ever, astronomers have discovered rings around an asteroid. Previously rings have only been observed around planets — Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn.

The asteroid in question is Chariklo, which orbits in an area between Saturn and Uranus. It’s approximately 155 miles across, about the length of Massachusetts. As Chariklo passed in front of a distant star last June, astronomers noticed brief flickering just before and after its pass and eventually figured out the flickering was cause by rings.

For more details about the rings and how they might have formed, see “Astronomers Surprised to Find Asteroid With Rings.”

25 comments

  1. It is COOLER than cool, Susan ! – don’t you just love astrophysics and astronomy and all that lot ? Always something new (even if it’s to change the previous stance) …
    Great stuff !

      1. i know, and huge discoveries and changes are coming faster and faster with all of the advances in technology. kids still ask about pluto because they’ve ‘heard of it.’

  2. I read about this on another blog, and I think it so cool PT. Brian Cox said that the early solar system must have looked very much like Saturn does now, with most of the rings eventually becoming the planets and their moons through the process of accretion. He also said that that process is ongoing, and I can’t help but wonder if this discovery is a confirmation of that in a way. Too bad we humans have such short lifespans, as I’d love to see the evolution revealed by future explorations…

    1. The Rockin Professor ! – I dote on him ! 🙂 I’m allowed to say that, because I’m old enough to be … possibly his grandmother ? Found it: he’s 46. Looks half that age. Well then I’m old enough to be his mother, anyway ! And I should like to’ve been, with a brain like that !!!

      1. I just love the way he talks in his science programs. His clarity of expression and obvious fascination with the subject places him, IMHO, squarely in the class of great teachers like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan! 🙂

        1. And did you know that David Attenborough would like to think that Brian takes over where he leaves off ?
          Attenborough is much more of an actual scientist than we realize, so this ain’t no mean thing ..,
          I agree entirely re NdT and CS, by the way.

        2. Aren’t they all simply amazing ?
          Thank all the gods that such people exist in this time of governments who don’t believe in science…!

      1. No apologies needed my friend. To be honest, the thought of not being here to be awed by the discoveries we make in the future is downright depressing. Then again, living on in an increasingly decrepit condition is too… O_o

        1. It’s funny. Back in the 70s, I was naive enough to think I might some day be one of the first to walk on Mars. But what I’ve learned since then about hazards such a mission must overcome – bone loss, muscle atrophy, long-term exposure to cosmic radiation, etc. – makes me think we’ve got a lot to learn before we’ll actually be ready. Unlike the great science fictions tales I read as a kid, long-term space missions now seem more like those mythical Greek odysseys! O_o

        2. More than a couple of times. Another good (first) SF book for Pied would be Isaac Asimov’s mystery story “The Caves Of Steel.” She would then feel the need to read the next two featuring officer Bailey.

          For wannabe astronomers (like many of us) the amazing story of where it all started can be found in “The Universe: From Flat Earth to Quasar” by Isaac Asimov published way back in 1967 it’s still a great universe history book.

        3. Ima, Asimov and Heinlein have been heroes of mine since my days of cutting school in the public library back in the early 70s. Selections of their work should be required reading! 🙂

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