MIT – Researchers have now confirmed the presence of two rings around minor planet, Chiron, which is somewhere between Saturn and Uranus. Scientists and astronomers have conducted about 90 different tests before they confirmed the presence of these rings.
The rings around Chiron or Centaur as sometimes referred to are between three to seven kilometers wide. Research has also shown that there are several heavenly bodies that possess rings. Of these the most obvious planet that displays the largest rings is Saturn. This on account of a 10 meter thick layer of dust, gas and ice and is 200,000 kilometers in size.
Chiron was first discovered in 1977 by an American astronomer, Charles T. Kowal. Further, research is still on to confirm whether Chiron is an asteroid, a comet or actually a planet. There are several schools of thought on this subject and some refer to it as a centaur in our solar system. This is an object that has its main axis between other large gas rich planets and orbits around the atmospheres of Saturn and Uranus.
In order to confirm the presence of the rings around Chiron, a unique technique was used named, transit photometry. For this to be possible, it is required that an object pass in front of a bright planet or a star and the shadow that is formed is analyzed. This is precisely the manner in which they detected the rings around Chiron.
The rings comprise of mostly debris or other much smaller objects that revolve around Chiron on account of its own gravitational pull. At first it was concluded that Chiron was a dormant object, but, future studies have revealed that it is in fact quite active in nature.
Studies on Chiron are only possible when it passes over a bright spot, which is usually about once a year. Unfortunately, this phenomenon lasts for only a few minutes, restricting further studies. This is the reason why there are differences in opinion on its exact nature.