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Forget those shepherding moons. Gravity and the odd shapes of asteroid Chariklo and dwarf planet Haumea—small objects deep in our solar system—can be credited for forming and maintaining their own rings, according new research in Nature Astronomy.
"Rings appear around Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus, but scientists found rings around Chariklo and Haumea within the last few years. Chariklo and Haumea were the first small objects known to have rings, and we think that rings throughout the solar system are more common than we thought," said Maryame El Moutamid, research associate in the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science and an author of the new paper. "In the case of small bodies Chariklo and Haumea, gravity shepherds the rings. The rings are confined by the gravity because of the shape irregularity of their bodies."
Literature - Torques - Moons - Planets - Rings
Until now, scientific literature generally assumed that the gravitational torques from shepherd moons around planets kept the rings in shape and prevented them from spreading and disappearing. Instead, this research shows that a topographic anomaly on the object, such as a mountain, may play a similar gravitational role as a "moon" to hold the rings together.
In addition to gravity, rapidly spinning cosmic bodies that create specific resonance also keep rings from expanding, dissipating and disappearing.
Chariklo - Asteroid - Saturn - Uranus - Miles
Chariklo is a small, rocky asteroid between Saturn and Uranus. It is about 188 miles in diameter and takes 63 years to orbit the sun. It is...
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