In a stunning discovery, scientists have uncovered an asteroid with its own set of rings that orbits between Saturn and Uranus outside the solar system. It's the first ever space rock to be discovered with its own rings, according to researchers.
The set of rings circling the asteroid named Chariklo was formed soon after a collision that scattered the remains around the asteroid, according to a new study. The rings also suggest the presence of undiscovered moon around Chariklo that helps them in keeping stable, says researchers.
Astronomers employed seven telescopes most of them located in South America in the search, but only the European Southern Observatory's La Silla telescope in Chile could expose the set of rings orbiting around Chariklo.
"We weren't looking for a ring and didn't think small bodies like Chariklo had them at all, so the discovery - and the amazing amount of detail we saw in the system - came as a complete surprise!" Space.com quoted Felipe Braga-Ribas, of the National Observatory in Brazil and the lead in the study.
The researchers found the asteroid consisting of a large seven kilometer wide and dense ring and a smaller three kilometer ring further out.
"They would be two spectacular sharp and really bright rings, crossing all the sky. They would be noticeably close, as they are at about 1/1,000 of the moon's distance from us" said Braga-Ribas, regarding the surface of the asteroid.
Researchers believe that the rings are similar to the rings of the Saturn as both are bright, dense and are probably formed by water ice and rock. Chariklo asteroids rings differ from Saturn rings in their scales.
Chariklo belongs to Centaurs - a class of space objects, which have characteristics and irregular orbits that resemble both asteroids and comets. These remote objects are a challenge to study because of their tiny size. Astronomers could only able to spot the rings around Chariklo when the light from a distant star were blocked when Chariklo travelled between that star and Earth on June 2013, Nature.com reported.
"Chariklo may not be the only nonplanetary body to have rings. Rings may be a much more common property than we thought," he said.
Check here for the video of the asteroid with rings
The details of the study have been published in the Journal Nature.