Abstract

Hitherto, rings have been found exclusively around the four giant planets in the Solar System1. Rings are natural laboratories in which to study dynamical processes analogous to those that take place during the formation of planetary systems and galaxies. Their presence also tells us about the origin and evolution of the body they encircle. Here we report observations of a multichord stellar occultation that revealed the presence of a ring system around (10199) Chariklo, which is a Centaur—that is, one of a class of small objects orbiting primarily between Jupiter and Neptune—with an equivalent radius of 124  9 kilometres (ref. 2). There are two dense rings, with respective widths of about 7 and 3 kilometres, optical depths of 0.4 and 0.06, and orbital radii of 391 and 405 kilometres. The present orientation of the ring is consistent with an edge-on geometry in 2008, which provides a simple explanation for the dimming3 of the Chariklo system between 1997 and 2008, and for the gradual disappearance of ice and other absorption features in its spectrum over the same period4,5. This implies that the rings are partly composed of water ice. They may be the remnants of a debris disk, possibly confined by embedded, kilometre-sized satellites.

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Acknowledgements

We thank S. Fornasier, I. Belskaya, B. Carry, E. Nogueira, P. Michel and A. Morbidelli for the discussions that helped to interpret our results. We also thank J. A. Burns for comments that helped to improve the paper. F.B.-R. acknowledges LIneA (Laboratório Interinstitucional de e-Astronomia) for hosting the campaign webpage and the support (grant 150541/2013-9) of CNPq, Brazil. Operation of the Danish 1.54-m telescope is financed by a grant to U.G.J. by the Danish Natural Science Research Council (FNU) and by the Centre for Star and Planet Formation (StarPlan). F. Colas, J.L., L. Maquet, F. Roques, B.S., F.V. and T.W. acknowledge support from the French grant ‘Beyond Neptune II’. J.L.O., R.D. and N. Morales acknowledge funding from Spanish AYA grants and FEDER funds. S.-h.G. and X.-b.W. are grateful for financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China through grants 10873031 and 11073051. M.D. is a Royal Society University Research Fellow at St Andrews University. TRAPPIST is a project funded by the Belgian Fund for Scientific Research (FRS-FNRS) with the participation of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF). E.J. and M.G. are FNRS Research Associates, J.M. is FNRS Research Director. C.O. thanks the Belgian FNRS for funding her PhD thesis. J.I.B.C., M.A. and R.V.-M. acknowledge CNPq grants 302657/2010-0, 482080/2009-4 478318/2007-3 and 304124/2007-9, respectively. The Universidad Católica Observatory (UCO) Santa Martina is operated by the Pontifícia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUC). C.S. received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement no. 268421. M.R. acknowledges support from FONDECYT postdoctoral fellowship 3120097. This work is partly based on observations made at the Pico dos Dias Observatory from the National Laboratory of Astrophysics (OPD/LNA) – Brazil; and partly based on observations obtained at the Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) telescope, which is a joint project of the Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia, e Inovação (MCTI) da República Federativa do Brasil, the US National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) and Michigan State University (MSU). This publication makes use of data products from the Two Micron All Sky Survey, a joint project of the University of Massachusetts and the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center/California Institute of Technology, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). It also makes use of data products from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, which is a joint project of the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology, funded by NASA. UNC-CH gratefully acknowledges NSF awards 0959447, 1009052 and 1211782 for support of Skynet/PROMPT. L.V. and R.L. acknowledge support by CONICYT through the project Anillo ACT-86. A.M. acknowledges the use of C. Harlingten’s 20-inch Planewave telescope, which is part of the Searchlight Observatory Network.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Observatório Nacional/MCTI, Rua General José Cristino 77, CEP 20921-400 Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil

    • F. Braga-Ribas
    • , R. Vieira-Martins
    • , J. I. B. Camargo
    • , G. Benedetti-Rossi
    •  & F. Roig
  2. LESIA, Observatoire de Paris, CNRS UMR 8109, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Université Paris-Diderot, 5 place Jules Janssen, F-92195 Meudon Cedex, France

    • B. Sicardy
    • , F. Roques
    • , E. Lellouch
    • , N. Ligier
    • , L. Maquet
    • , P. Kervella
    • , M. El Moutamid
    • , J. Lecacheux
    •  & T. Widemann
  3. Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, CSIC, Apartado 3004, 18080 Granada, Spain

    • J. L. Ortiz
    • , R. Duffard
    •  & N. Morales
  4. Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 3, 37077 Göttingen, Germany

    • C. Snodgrass
  5. Observatório do Valongo/UFRJ, Ladeira Pedro Antonio 43, CEP 20.080-090 Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil

    • R. Vieira-Martins
    • , M. Assafin
    •  & A. Ramos Gomes
  6. Observatoire de Paris, IMCCE, UPMC, CNRS, 77 Avenue Denfert-Rochereau, 75014 Paris, France

    • R. Vieira-Martins
    • , M. El Moutamid
    • , F. Colas
    •  & F. Vachier
  7. Institut d’Astrophysique de l’Université de Liège, Allée du 6 Août 17, B-4000 Liège, Belgium

    • E. Jehin
    • , M. Gillon
    • , J. Manfroid
    •  & C. Opitom
  8. Physics and Astronomy Department, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina 28608, USA

    • J. Pollock
  9. Instituto de Astrofísica, Facultad de Física, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Avenida Vicuña Mackenna 4860, Santiago 7820436, Chile

    • R. Leiva
    •  & M. Rabus
  10. Universidade Estadual de Ponta Grossa, O.A. - DEGEO, Avenida Carlos Cavalcanti 4748, Ponta Grossa 84030-900, PR, Brazil

    • M. Emilio
    •  & L. Mehret
  11. Polo Astronômico Casimiro Montenegro Filho/FPTI-BR, Avenida Tancredo Neves 6731, CEP 85867-900, Foz do Iguaçu, PR, Brazil

    • D. I. Machado
    •  & L. Lorenzini
  12. Universidade Estadual do Oeste do Paraná (Unioeste), Avenda Tarquínio Joslin dos Santos, 1300, CEP 85870-650, Foz do Iguaçu, PR, Brazil

    • D. I. Machado
  13. Ministerio de Educación de la Provincia de Córdoba, Santa Rosa 751, Córdoba 5000, Argentina

    • C. Colazo
  14. Observatorio Astronómico, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Laprida 854, Córdoba 5000, Argentina

    • C. Colazo
    • , E. M. Schneiter
    • , R. Melia
    •  & D. G. Lambas
  15. Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Juliane Maries vej 30, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark

    • J. Skottfelt
    • , K. Harpsøe
    •  & U. G. Jørgensen
  16. Centre for Star and Planet Formation, Geological Museum, Øster Voldgade 5, 1350 Copenhagen, Denmark

    • J. Skottfelt
    • , K. Harpsøe
    •  & U. G. Jørgensen
  17. Instituto de Física e Química, Avenida BPS 1303, CEP 37500-903, Itajubá, MG, Brazil

    • H. Monteiro
  18. UNESP - Universidade Estadual Paulista, Avenida Ariberto Pereira da Cunha, 333, CEP 12516-410 Guaratinguetá, SP, Brazil

    • R. Sfair
  19. Observatorio Astronomico Los Molinos, DICYT, MEC, 12400 Montevideo, Uruguay

    • G. Tancredi
    • , S. Roland
    • , L. Almenares
    • , V. Perez
    •  & N. Martinez
  20. Departamento de Astronomia, Facultad Ciencias, Universidad de la República, 11300 Montevideo, Uruguay

    • G. Tancredi
    • , A. Ceretta
    • , L. Almenares
    • , V. Perez
    • , P. Lemos
    •  & N. Martinez
  21. Observatorio El Catalejo, Mussio 255, Santa Rosa, La Pampa 6300, Argentina

    • J. Spagnotto
  22. San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations, Casilla 21, San Pedro de Atacama 1410000, Chile

    • A. Maury
    •  & R. G. Sandness
  23. Complejo Astronómico El Leoncito (CASLEO) and San Juan National University, Avenida España 1512 sur, J5402DSP, San Juan, Argentina

    • R. Gil-Hutton
  24. Observatorio del IPA, Consejo de Formación en Educación, 11800 Montevideo, Uruguay

    • A. Ceretta
  25. Yunnan Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650011, China

    • S.-h. Gu
    •  & X.-b. Wang
  26. Key Laboratory for the Structure and Evolution of Celestial Objects, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650011, China

    • S.-h. Gu
    •  & X.-b. Wang
  27. Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Königstuhl 17, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany

    • M. Rabus
  28. Department of Electrical Engineering and Center of Astro-Engineering, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Avenida Vicuña Mackenna 4860, Santiago 7820436, Chile

    • L. Vanzi
  29. Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Córdoba 5000, Argentina

    • E. M. Schneiter
  30. Instituto de Astronomía Teórica y Experimental IATE–CONICET, Córdoba 5000, Argentina

    • E. M. Schneiter
    •  & D. G. Lambas
  31. Facultad de Ciências Exactas, Físicas y Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba (UNC), Córdoba 5000, Argentina

    • E. M. Schneiter
  32. Unidad de Astronomía, Facultad de Ciencias Básicas, Universidad de Antofagasta, Avenida Angamos 601, Antofagasta, Region II, Chile

    • F. Char
  33. Scottish Universities Physics Alliance, University of St Andrews, School of Physics and Astronomy, North Haugh, St Andrews KY16 9SS, UK

    • M. Dominik
  34. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA

    • D. E. Reichart
    • , A. P. LaCluyze
    • , J. B. Haislip
    • , K. M. Ivarsen
    • , J. P. Moore
    •  & N. R. Frank

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Contributions

F.B.-R. planned the observation campaign, centralized the occultation predictions, participated in the observations, analysed data and results, ran the diffraction and limb-fitting codes, and wrote the paper. B.S. helped to plan the campaign, analysed data and results, wrote and ran the diffraction and limb-fitting codes, and wrote the paper. J.L.O. helped to plan the campaign, analysed data for the occultation prediction, and obtained and analysed data and results. C.S. coordinated and analysed the data from Danish 1.54-m telescope. F. Roques analysed data, and wrote and ran the diffraction and limb-fitting codes. R.V.-M. coordinated the predictions and analysed data. J.I.B.C., F.B.-R., R.V.-M. and M.A. discovered the star candidate and analysed data for the occultation prediction. R.D. coordinated the SOAR and Bosque Alegre observations, and helped to analyse the results. E.J., J.P, R.L., M.E., D.I.M., C.C. and J. Spagnotto obtained and analysed the positive occultation detections from the TRAPPIST, PROMPT, UCO Santa Martina, UEPG, Foz do Iguaçu, Bosque Alegre and Danish telescopes, respectively. E.L. helped to analyse the results. J. Skottfelt, M.G., L. Maquet, N.L., G.B.-R. and A.R.G. helped to obtain the occultation light curves or analysed the data, or both. P.K. ran stellar models to determine the apparent star diameter. H.M. obtained the stellar spectrum. R.S. calculated the short-term ring stability. M.E.M. worked on the confinement mechanisms of the rings. G.T., J.P., A.M., N. Morales, R.G.-H., S.R. and A.C. obtained the negative detections. S.-h.G., X.-b.W., K.H., M.R., J.M., C.O., L.V., L. Mehret, L.L., E.M.S. and R.M. helped to obtain and analyse the positive occultation detections. J.L., F. Colas, F.V., T.W. and K.H. helped to make the predictions and analyse the data. L.A., R.G.S., F. Char, V.P., P.L., N. Martinez, U.G.J., M.D., F. Roig, D.E.R., A.P.L., J.B.H., K.M.I., J.P.M., N.R.F. and D.G.L. were involved in event observations. All authors were given the opportunity to review the results and comment on the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to F. Braga-Ribas.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13155

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