First global simulation yields new insights into ring system

A team of Japanese researchers have exhibited the two rings around Chariklo, the smallest body in the Solar System known to have rings. This is the first time an entire ring system has been simulated using accurate sizes for the ring particles as well as considering collisions and gravitational interactions between the particles. The team’s simulation displayed information about the size and density rings’ particles. Through considering both the detailed structure and the global picture for the first time, the team discovered that Chariklo’s inner ring should be unstable without help. There is a possibility that the ring particles are much smaller than speculated or that a concealed shepherd satellite around Chariklo is stabilizing the ring.

Their results indicate that the density of the ring particles must be less than half the density of Chariklo itself. Results also revealed that a striped pattern referred to as ‘self-gravity wakes’, forms in the inner ring because of interactions between the particles. These self-gravity wakes to quicken the break-up of the ring. The team recalculated the projected lifetime of Chariklo’s rings based on results and discovered it to be only 1 to 100 years, much shorter than previous estimates. This is so short that it’s surprising the ring is still there.


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