This new asteroid discovery goes by the name Chariklo. It is relatively small in size compared to nearby planets, measuring approximately 250 kilometers, or about 150 miles in diameter. The scientists who published their findings in the professional online journal, “Nature,” report that this amazing discovery was found quite by accident and is shaking up what was previously thought about only planets being able to sustain a ring system. Rings are often the initial manifestation of an astronomical body that is on its way to developing into either becoming a moon or a full-fledged planet.
Researchers who study the celestial bodies that inhabit outer space say that Chariklo is officially characterized as a Centaur, having the characteristics of both comets as well as asteroids. It took a total of taking measurements from seven different telescopes positioned at locations throughout the South American continent to verify that two very narrow rings, one measuring 3 kilometers and the other 7 kilometers, were circling Chariklo.
“This discovery suggests that the event(s) responsible for the origin of the rings is relatively recent, or that a fortuitous balance of forces have combined to help sustain them,” said Ed Beshore, deputy principal investigator for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, which aims to visit a near-Earth asteroid and bring a sample back to Earth. Beshore was not involved with this study.
Although researchers say the rings are composed of ice, they do not have any clue as to why or how they were formed around the asteroid. NASA astronomers now say there is a much greater likelihood that scientists will begin finding more asteroids which have ring systems formed around them now that the first such object has been discovered in the outer Solar System.