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PopWrapped | Current Events

Rings Discovered Around Minor Planet Chiron

Adam Horn | PopWrapped Author

Adam Horn

Updated 03/23/2015 4:25pm
Rings Discovered Around Minor Planet Chiron | Chiron
Media Courtesy of Siliconrepublic.com
Our solar system seems to be more active than many have ever expected. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology seem to have discovered a system of rings around the “mini-planet” Chiron in our own solar system. Chiron is classified as a centaur – a small object possessing characteristics of both asteroids and comets – of which there are estimated to be about 44,000 of in our solar system. Rings have previously only been observed around large bodies in our solar system, such as the planets Saturn or Neptune, until last year when a double ring system was discovered around the centaur Chariklo. This has lead to further investigation which subsequently led to the discovery of the possible rings around Chiron. These rings were discovered by a technique called “stellar occultation,” in which celestial bodies are observed by blocking light when they pass in front of a star, a process which was described earlier this year in the discovery of a much larger ringed system. The image that occurred when Chiron passed in front of a star indicated a ring, perhaps of debris, perhaps a shell of gas and dust, or maybe even jets of vapor escaping the surface. "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," said Amanda Bosh , a lecturer with the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "It's turning out things are quite active."

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