Nav: Home

Origin of minor planets' rings revealed

October 06, 2016

A team of researchers has clarified the origin of the rings recently discovered around two minor planets known as centaurs, and their results suggest the existence of rings around other centaurs. These findings were published on August 29 in Astrophysical Journal Letters, and introduced in AAS Nova, a website for research highlights from the journals of the American Astronomical Society.

The lead author of the paper is HYODO Ryuki (Kobe University Department of Planetology, Graduate School of Science), and co-authors are Professor Sébastien Charnoz (Institute de Physique du Globe/Université Paris Diderot), Project Associate Professor GENDA Hidenori (Earth-Life Science Institute, Tokyo Institute of Technology), and Professor OHTSUKI Keiji (Kobe University Department of Planetology, Graduate School of Science).

Centaurs are minor planets that orbit between Jupiter and Neptune, their current or past orbits crossing those of the giant planets. It is estimated that there are around 44,000 centaurs with diameters larger than one kilometer.

Until recently it was thought that the four giants such as Saturn and Jupiter were the only ringed celestial bodies within our solar system. However, in 2014 observations of stellar occultation (an event that occurs when light from a star is blocked from the observer by a celestial body) by multiple telescopes revealed that rings exist around the centaur Chariklo (see Figure 1). Soon after this, scientists discovered that rings likely exist around another centaur, Chiron, but the origin of the rings around these minor planets remained a mystery.

The team began by estimating the probability that these centaurs passed close enough to the giant planets to be destroyed by their tidal pull. Their results showed that approximately 10% of centaurs would experience that level of close encounter. Next, they used computer simulations to investigate the disruption caused by tidal pull when the centaurs passed close by the giant planets. The outcome of such encounters was found to vary depending on parameters such as the initial spin of the passing centaur, the size of its core, and the distance of its closest approach to a giant planet (Figure 2). They found that if the passing centaur is differentiated and has a silicate core covered by an icy mantle, fragments of the partially-destroyed centaur will often spread out around the largest remnant body in a disc shape, from which rings are expected to form.

The results of their simulations suggest that the existence of rings around centaurs would be much more common than previously thought. It is highly likely that other centaurs with rings and/or small moons exist, awaiting discovery by future observations.
-end-
Technical terms

1. Centaur:
small celestial bodies that orbit between Jupiter and Neptune. Their current or past orbits repeatedly cross those of the giant planets, and sometimes pass very close by the giant planets themselves.

2. Chariklo:
a centaur with a radius of approximately 250 kilometres. In 2014 it was clarified by stellar occultations that this centaur has rings.

3. Chiron:
a centaur with a radius of approximately 220 kilometres. Like Chariklo, it is thought to possess rings based on data from multiple observations.

Kobe University

Related Giant Planets Articles:

Giant exoplanet around tiny star challenges understanding of how planets form
An international team of researchers with participation from the University of Göttingen has discovered the first large gas giant orbiting a small star.
How many Earth-like planets are around sun-like stars?
A new study provides the most accurate estimate of the frequency that planets that are similar to Earth in size and in distance from their host star occur around stars similar to our Sun.
The formative years: Giant planets vs. brown dwarfs
Based on preliminary results from a new Gemini Observatory survey of 531 stars with the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), it appears more and more likely that large planets and brown dwarfs have very different roots.
The sun follows the rhythm of the planets
One of the big questions in solar physics is why the sun's activity follows a regular cycle of 11 years.
Giant planets and big data: What deep learning reveals about Saturn's storms
A deep learning approach to detecting storms on Saturn shows the vast regions affected by storms and that dark storm clouds contain material swept up from the lower atmosphere.
Five planets revealed after 20 years of observation
To confirm the presence of a planet, it is necessary to wait until it has made one or more revolutions around its star.
Icy giant planets in the laboratory
Giant planets like Neptune may contain much less free hydrogen than previously assumed.
New NASA mission could find more than 1,000 planets
A NASA telescope that will give humans the largest, deepest, clearest picture of the universe since the Hubble Space Telescope could find as many as 1,400 new planets outside Earth's solar system, new research suggests.
Giant planets around young star raise questions about how planets form
Researchers have identified a young star with four Jupiter and Saturn-sized planets in orbit around it, the first time that so many massive planets have been detected in such a young system.
The stuff that planets are made of
UZH researchers have analyzed the composition and structure of faraway exoplanets using statistical tools.
More Giant Planets News and Giant Planets Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.