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Icy rings found around tiny space rock

Surprise discovery reveals belt around planetoid orbiting between Saturn and Uranus

2:07pm, March 26, 2014

PUT A RING ON IT  A pair of thin, icy rings loop around the 250-kilometer-wide planetoid Chariklo, shown in an artist’s illustration. 

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All of the giant planets in our solar system — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — are adorned with rings. Now a much smaller planetoid can take its place on the list of ringed objects. It is the first time rings have been found around such a small object.

Astronomers have discovered a pair of thin rings encircling 10199 Chariklo, a rock-and-ice asteroid-comet hybrid known as a centaur. Chariklo is about 250 kilometers across and orbits the sun between Saturn and Uranus. The rings are probably the result of a collision, astronomers think.

The rings revealed themselves during an occultation — a chance alignment between Chariklo and a distant star when viewed from Earth. When seen from multiple vantage points, an occultation can tell researchers about the size and shape of the intervening body.  Felipe Braga-Ribas, an astronomer at Observatório Nacional in Rio de Janeiro, coordinated occultation

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