MIT researchers discover first minor planet with Saturn like rings, Chiron

In a new finding, astronomers have discovered another celestial body in our solar system to boast rings. Untill now, only Saturn (with vivid and beautiful rings), Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune ( rings made of dust and gas) were known have to rings.

The minor planet named Chiron that was discovered back in 1977 by an American astronomer, Charles T. Kowal was found to posses rings similar to Saturn. What surprised the scientists was that Chiron in a centaur ( a minor planet that boasts the properties of both — asteroid and comets, and are found in the region between Jupiter and Neptune, believed as an inactive region in our solar system).

“It’s interesting, because Chiron is a centaur — part of that middle section of the solar system, between Jupiter and Pluto, where we originally weren’t thinking things would be active, but it’s turning out things are quite active,” said Amanda Bosh, a lecturer in Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The MIT researchers were astonished to first observe the rings back in 2011 when Chiron blocked the light coming from the star while passing through it. However, scientists kept a close eye on the minor planet for the confirmation. Scientists used a technique called transit photometry to confirm the presence of rings.

“There’s an aspect of serendipity to these observations,” Bosh said.”We need a certain amount of luck, waiting for Chiron to pass in front of a star that is bright enough. Chiron itself is small enough that the event is very short; if you blink, you might miss it,” Bosh added. The study appeared in the journal Icarus.

It seems Saturn’s stature of being most beautiful planet (due to its adorable rings) is in danger as in recent findings scientists have successfully discovered planet with rings, however, these planets were discovered in different galaxies. Rings in some planets are so vast that it can gobble up solar system’s second largest planet, Saturn, nearly 200 times.

Moreover, rings are made of fast moving particles mostly debris revolving around a planet, fast enough to give the appearance of a ring-like structure.

The study was published in the journal Icarus.

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