National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

First Global Simulation Yields New Insights into Ring System

| Science

Visualization constructed from simulation of Chariklo’s double ring. (Credit: Shugo Michikoshi, Eiichiro Kokubo, Hirotaka Nakayama, 4D2U Project, NAOJ) Original size (3.2MB)

A team of researchers in Japan modeled 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 realistic sizes for the ring particles while also taking into account collisions and gravitational interactions between the particles. The team’s simulation revealed information about the size and density of the particles in the rings. By considering both the detailed structure and the global picture for the first time, the team found that Chariklo’s inner ring should be unstable without help. It is possible the ring particles are much smaller than predicted or that an undiscovered shepherd satellite around Chariklo is stabilizing the ring.

This research was presented in a paper entitled “Simulating the Smallest Ring World of Chariklo” by Shugo Michikoshi and Eiichiro Kokubo, to appear in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.