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First Asteroid Discovered Sporting a Ring System 29

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the coolest-rock-in-the-belt dept.
astroengine (1577233) writes "When you think of a celestial ring system, the beautiful ringed planet Saturn will likely jump to mind. But for the first time astronomers have discovered that ring systems aren't exclusive to planetary bodies — asteroids can have them too. Announced on Wednesday, astronomers using several observatories in South America, including the ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile, have discovered that distant asteroid Chariklo possesses two distinct rings. Chariklo, which is approximately 250 kilometers (155 miles) wide, is the largest space rock in a class of asteroids known as Centaurs that orbit between Saturn and Uranus in the outer solar system. 'We weren't looking for a ring and didn't think small bodies like Chariklo had them at all, so the discovery — and the amazing amount of detail we saw in the system — came as a complete surprise!' said lead researcher Felipe Braga-Ribas, of the Observatório Nacional and MCTI, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil."
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First Asteroid Discovered Sporting a Ring System

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  • Bah, it's just following the dictate to have haircuts like Kim Jong Un [mashable.com].

    And, yes, that's evidently a real requirement in North Korea now.

    • by vux984 (928602)

      " though experts familiar with the country have said there's no evidence a new hairstyle rule has gone into effect."

      From the article you linked to...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @03:42PM (#46586989)

    It's one thing to have rings around Uranus. It's another thing to have rings around your whole asteroid.

    • by Guppy06 (410832)

      Kidding aside, as I recall Uranus' ring system itself was discovered through an occultation like this.

  • by Payden K. Pringle (3483599) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @03:42PM (#46586993)

    >But for the first time astronomers have discovered that ring systems aren't exclusive to planetary bodies — asteroids can have them too.

    I get the word "discovered" here, but... I wouldn't think that gravity is exclusive to planetary bodies. Anything with significant gravity can have a ring system under the right conditions.

    Sensationalist article is sensationalist. But hey, it's slashdot.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      When you take the time to look at concepts like the hill sphere and the roche sphere I can see where it would put the question of how sustainable would a ring system be for a small body given the larger neighbors that it has.
       
      I imagine any reasonable cosmologist or astronomer would have said that it was certainly possible but only in a narrow lane of circumstances.
       
      Live and learn.

    • Anything with significant gravity can have a ring system under the right conditions.

      And up until now, we didn't know if those right conditions ever occurred for asteroids. Now we do. That certainly counts as a discovery.

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@nosPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @04:29PM (#46587349) Homepage

      I get the word "discovered" here, but... I wouldn't think that gravity is exclusive to planetary bodies. Anything with significant gravity can have a ring system under the right conditions.

      True. But the smaller and weaker the gravitational field is, or the more perturbed it is, the lower the chance for a ring system to form let alone remain stable. Not to mention, there's a huge difference between something being theoretically (if extraordinarily remotely) possible and actually observing said thing in the wild.

    • But it IS sensational science - it is a reported observation, fine.

      Mind that the sciences do often need to think about PR for funding.

      Of all the crap that gets posted on /., for this I say "Pretty cool, let them be sensational".
  • by NotFamous (827147) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @03:48PM (#46587047) Homepage Journal
    Best to put a ring on it.
  • It pretty much seems to be an observable fact from trees to planetary bodies to particle physics. Dig deeper and the parts resemble the whole.
    • by Xtifr (1323) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @05:37PM (#46588021) Homepage

      Dig deeper, and you soon hit the Planck length [wikipedia.org], so, no. Really small things don't resemble larger things at all. That's why QM is so counter-intuitive. Heck, you don't even have to dig that deep to realize that an atom does not resemble the solar system, even though both have small things orbiting a large central mass.

      For that matter, go the other way, and you hit the light-speed barrier, which has a huge effect on the way really big things work. The very large and the very small are both immensely different from each other and from things on what we consider a normal, human scale. Your notion is poetic, but contradicts most of the physics discovered since the early 20th c.

      • Heck, you don't even have to dig that deep to realize that an atom does not resemble the solar system, even though both have small things orbiting a large central mass.

        Actually electrons DON'T orbit nuclei. What they do is more akin to being standing waves surrounding them. With the opposite charges on the electrons and the nuclei, if they orbited in the classical mechanics sense they'd continuously emit electromagnetic radiation and the orbit would quickly decay. This is part of what put physicists ont

        • by Xtifr (1323)

          Actually electrons DON'T orbit nuclei.

          It's still referred to as an orbit, even if it doesn't resemble a classical orbit.

          What they do is more akin to being standing waves surrounding them.

          Except that, unlike what's usually referred to as a wave at that level, it has nothing to do with frequency. It's more of a probability wave. But it's still subject to the exclusion principle, which really complicates matters. Two electrons can't occupy the same location, but location itself is a tricky concept at that scale.

          Anyway, all of that just goes to make my point. The very small (and the very large) are not like what w

  • Does a ring system tell us that this asteroid has volatile compounds on it? Developers may not have to go to the Oort Cloud for water after all.

  • ring systems aren't exclusive to planetary bodies — asteroids can have them too

    Since the dividing line between "planet" and "asteroid" was drawn more-or-less arbitrarily by us humans, I wasn't expecting rings to be exclusive to planets in the first place.

  • They had to announce this for their own safety. If they hadn't, nobody else would have looked at it and they'd be dead in a week.

  • via google translate: Le Monde [google.com]

An age is called Dark not because the light fails to shine, but because people refuse to see it. -- James Michener, "Space"

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