Observations at many sites in South America, including the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) La Silla Observatory, have made the surprise discovery that two dense and narrow rings surround the remote asteroid Chariklo. This is the smallest object by far found to have rings and only the fifth body in the solar system — after the much larger planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune — to have this feature. The origin of these rings remains a mystery, but they may be the result of a collision that created a disk of debris.
Astronomers know that gravity from Saturn's various moons tug at the planet's rings and make spirals in them. But the catalyst for certain spiral patterns has been difficult to pin down. Now, two Cornell astronomers have determined the source: Saturn itself.