Asteroid with rings - level 3

Asteroid with rings - level 3

04-04-2014 07:00

This has never been seen before. A giant asteroid had a surprise in store for scientists when they discovered it had Saturn-like rings.

Chariklo, which is also considered to be a minor planet, is around 250 kilometres wide, which makes it the smallest known object to have such rings. It was previously thought they could only form around much bigger planets, such as Saturn or Neptune.

The scientists only noticed the rings when the asteroid moved in front of a star, casting a shadow the size of South America, and inspiring them to take a closer look.

“Our work was to map an entire region, in which this object passes in the sky. Then we determined it was hiding a particular star, and what was really surprising is that we detected the presence of two rings surrounding the object.”

It’s not known how the rings formed, but one theory suggests they’re made up of ice, pebbles and other debris from a massive collision in space.

Difficult words: cast (create), pebble (small stone), debris (broken pieces of rock), collision (crash).

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