Observations at many sites in South America, including ESO’s La Silla Observatory, have made the surprise discovery that the remote asteroid Chariklo is surrounded by two dense and narrow rings. This is the smallest object by far found to have rings and only the fifth body in the Solar System — after the much larger planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — to have this feature. The origin of these rings remains a mystery, but they may be the result of a collision that created a disc of debris.
This artist’s impression shows how the rings might look from close to the surface of Chariklo.
Illustration credit: ESO/L. Calçada/Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org)
Note: For more information, see First Ring System Around Asteroid.
Update: A new video shows how the occultation of a star by Asteroid 10199 Chariklo revealed the two rings that orbit the asteroid.