Earlier, only four entities in our solar system were known to possess rings; all of them are planets. Saturn is obviously the most prominent name in the list; it is joined by three other planets Neptune, Uranus and Jupiter, each of which has rings made up of dust and gas encircling them. Then, a fifth entity was found to boast a ring system; now, scientists are saying that astronomers have even discovered a sixth one.
Scientists came across a fifth object with a ring system some time back. It’s a minor planet belonging to the category of centaurs or tiny, rocky bodies boasting features of both comets and asteroids. The name of that asteroid-comet hybrid was Chariklo.
This was a surprising discovery even for the scientists as it has always been believed that all centaurs are more or less dormant.
Now scientists representing the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a number of other institutions have come across another centaur with a sing system; its name is Chiron. For those who don’t know: astronomers discovered Chiron in 1977, and it was the first planetary structure to be labeled as a centaur.
The group witnessed a stellar occultation in 2011; it took place when Chiron crossed a bright star blocking its light for a short span of time. The researchers began analyzing the light emissions of the star and also inspected Chiron’s momentary shadow. Some optical features identified by them suggest that Chiron might have a ring system.
According to the scientists, the ring surrounding the asteroid-comet hybrid either comprises of dust and gas or might be made of symmetric jets of different materials coming out from Chiron’s surface.
MITS’s Amanda Bosh, who is a member of the research team, said that the fact that Chiron is a centaur makes the finding even more fascinating. She added that no one ever thought that the area between Pluto and Jupiter will have too many active things, but this study has proved such thoughts wrong.
Bosh conducted the study along with her MIT colleagues Michael Person, Amanda Gulbis, and Jessica Ruprecht. The study was eventually published in the widely read science journal Icarus.