Skip to content

First-ever asteroid discovered with rings, astronomers agape

By Catholic Online (THE NEWS CONSORTIUM)
3/27/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Enigmatic asteroid will be followed for further study.

Astronomers have discovered an asteroid with rings, the first time such a phenomenon has ever been observed. The discovery was made during a rare astronomical event known as an occultation.

Asteroid Chariklo has rings, the only known example of such.

Asteroid Chariklo has rings, the only known example of such.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (THE NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
3/27/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Technology

Keywords: Chariklo, rings, asteroid, centaur


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The greatest thing a scientist can hear in the laboratory is the dubious phrase, "that's strange." In June 2013, that's how scientists reacted when asteroid Chariklo passed in front of a distant star in an event known as an occultation.

Occultations are rare for asteroids, although one occurred just last week when a major asteroid passed in front of the star Regulus in the constellation, Leo. That occultation was visible only across a narrow band of territory sweeping though New England and it was largely obscured by poor weather.

St. Dominic, patron saint of astronomers.

However, astronomers had no problem viewing the occultation of Chariklo in June 2013.

Scientists expected the asteroid to quickly block the starlight behind it, winking out, then back on some seconds later, but instead they saw the starlight dim and brighten, then go out, then brighten and dim again. This is the telltale sign that the star's light is passing through rings.

Astronomers first detected rings around Uranus and Neptune using the same technique. What is most surprising in this case is that until now, astronomers thought only giant planets could have rings.

Chariklo is 155 miles wide, which the observations confirmed. They also revealed that the asteroid has two rings, an outer ring about 2 miles wide and an inner one 4 miles wide. The rings are separated by a gap of 5.5 miles.

The rings are probably made of water ice. How they got there is a matter of wild speculation, but likely there was a collision long ago which caused ice to be knocked off the asteroid's surface and to fall into orbit around the M&M-shaped rock.

In a stroke of fortune, the asteroid will occult three more stars over the next year because it is passing in front of a field of stars which is easily visible to Hubble and other powerful telescopes. This will allow them to confirm their discovery and take more precise measurements.

This particular asteroid is of interest to astronomers because it is rich in organic material, as are most asteroids which orbit between Uranus and Saturn. These asteroids are collectively classified as "Centaurs."

Astronomers want to determine with greater precision what Centaurs really are because they have properties of asteroids, but are also rich in ice and organics like comets, hence their name.

The discovery is detailed in the current issue of the scientific journal, Nature.

---


'Help give every student and teacher Free resources for a world-class moral Catholic education'


Copyright 2017 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for APRIL 2017
Young People.
That young people may respond generously to their vocations and seriously consider offering themselves to God in the priesthood or consecrated life.


Comments


More Technology

Scientists discover hobbits are real, but they're not related to us Watch

Image of A hobbit man compared to a modern human.

A diminutive species of hominid, known as a "hobbit" lived in Indonesia some two to 1.5 million years ago.  New research suggests they ... continue reading


Scientists think they know where MH370 REALLY is based on new research Watch

Image of Scientists testing the flaperon discovered it floats uniquely, changing the results of their tests.

Scientists are hopeful the search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 will be renewed following tests that show the plane is likely in a new, ... continue reading


So an asteroid is going to hit Earth. Here's how you are likely to die Watch

Image of Will humanity survive the next big impact?

In the 1990s, it was a staple of science fiction. A giant asteroid is headed toward Earth to destroy the planet. Few are likely to survive ... continue reading


What will World War 3 look like? How do I survive it? Watch

Image of What will World War 3 look like, and how do we prepare?

With global tensions reaching new heights, talk about World War 3 has surged. Search traffic for the term is spiking. Preppers are buying ... continue reading


NSA hacking tools now available for anyone to use, is your computer vulnerable? Watch

Image of Hackers now have the tools to exploit 65 percent of the world's computers.

The majority of the world's computers are vulnerable to NSA hacking, according to a hacktivist collective that has just released another ... continue reading


Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.