Thursday 27 March 2014

Chariklo has rings!

I've just discovered that Chariklo - my favourite Centaur - has rings.  Two very thin ones.  And when there are rings, there are often 'shepherd' moons so astronomers are now looking out for them, too.  More information here: 

This is the first small astronomical body that they've discovered with rings.  Chariklo is, in fact, the largest of the Centaurs at 258 km (160 mls), but she's absolutely tiny compared to the gas giants, with their elaborate ring systems.  "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!" said Felipe Braga-Ribas of Observatório Nacional/MCTI in Rio de Janeiro.

This is an artist's impression of how Chariklo's ring system might look.  Not as exciting as Saturn's, I admit, but nevertheless these small bodies are constantly surprising us.

Does it have implications for how we use Chariklo in astrology?  I think it's too soon to say.  It'll be interesting to see if they find other centaurs, asteroids or trans-Neptunians with rings.  Often once they find one, they find them everywhere.

I've been working with this amazing little Centaur for about a year now, which has been a deeply rewarding experience.  I've written about her previously, but for those who are unfamiliar with her, Chariklo was Chiron's wife and, like him, she orbits between Saturn and Uranus.  Her orbit is longer than Chiron's, however, at around 63 years.

I'm giving a talk on the Chariklo-Uranus cycle at the May meeting of Exeter Astrology Group so do come long if you want to learn more about this unusual little Centaur.


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