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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Scientists Discover Exoplanet With Rings Far More Impressive Than Our Saturn

J1407b

Artist’s conception of the extrasolar ring system circling the young giant planet or brown dwarf J1407b is shown. Credit: Ron Miller

Children and adults alike marvel at the rings around Saturn. In a model of our solar system, Saturn—and its rings—is typically the one that gets the most attention.

But while it is easy to be fascinated by Saturn, astronomers have recently found an exoplanet with an even grander expanse of wings that is sure to wow a new generation of stargazers.

“The star is much too far away to observe the rings directly, but we could make a detailed mode based on the rapid brightness variations in the star light passing through the ring system. If we could replace Saturn’s rings with the rings around J1407b, they would be easily visible at night and be many times larger than the full moon,” explains lead researcher Matthew Kenworthy. “The details that we see in the light curve are incredible. The eclipse lasted for several weeks, but you see rapid changes on time scales of tens of minutes as a result of fine structures in the rings.”

Study co-author Eric Mamaek, who first found the rings of the planet, comments, “The planetary science community has theorized for decades that planets like Jupiter and Saturn would have had, at an early stage, disks around them that then led to the formation of satellites. However, until we discovered this object in 2012, no-one had seen such a ring system. This is the first snapshot of satellite formation on million-kilometer scales around a substellar object.”

The University of Rochester professor of physics and astronomy goes on to say, “This planet is much larger than Jupiter or Saturn, and its ring system is roughly 200 times larger than Saturn’s rings are today. You could think of it as a kind of super Saturn.”

Source : piercepioneer.com