EUROPEAN SOUTHERN OBSERVATORY / L. CALCADA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY EUROPEAN SOUTHERN OBSERVATORY / L. CALCADA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
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Animation showing the motions of bodies in the outer Solar System. Objects in long-term unstable orbits in this region are known as Centaurs and the largest is asteroid 10199 Chariklo. This discovery of Chariklo's ring system was announced on 26th March 2014, based on observations of the asteroid passing in front of the star UCAC4 248-108672 on 3rd June 2013. The light from the star was blocked by the asteroid, an event known as an occultation, but unexpectedly the light dimmed a smaller amount just before and after the occultation. Analysis of the data led to the discovery of two very narrow rings, three and seven kilometres wide, separated by nine kilometres. The rings have a diameter of 782 and 810 kilometres, thus orbit very close to the surface of the asteroid, which has an effective diameter of 250 kilometres. This is the first time a ring system has been seen around a minor planet. It is thought that the debris forming the rings is the result of a collision between two bodies, and their structure implies the presence of a small shepherd moon or moons to stabilise their shape.
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