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For the first time ever, astronomers have discovered a ring system surrounding an asteroid.
The finding is a complete surprise to planetary scientists. The cosmic bling was found around an object named Chariklo, which orbits in a region between Saturn and Uranus.
At 155 miles across, or about the length of Massachusetts, Chariklo is the largest known asteroid in its neighborhood. The ice rings reflect light like a mirror. As Chariklo moved through its orbit, its ring system turned edge-on when viewed from Earth. As they turned back to face us with their flat side, they reflected light toward our planet and Chariklo’s brightness grew by 40%.
There are only four other known ring systems in our solar system — around Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune and, most dramatically, Saturn — and all the other ones have formed around planets. >>
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