Tags: j1407b | exoplanet | rings | saturn

J1407b, Exoplanet Light Years Away, Has Rings Like Saturn

By    |   Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015 07:12 AM

J1407b, a planet 420 light years away, has a ring system like Saturn, but one that is much bigger, scientists have recently discovered.

“This planet is much larger than Jupiter or Saturn, and its ring system is roughly 200 times larger than Saturn’s rings are today,” Eric Mamajek, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, said in a university blog post. “You could think of it as kind of a super Saturn.” 

Whereas Saturn's rings measure 70,000 kilometers across, the rings of J1407b measure 120 million kilometers in diameter.

Along with scientists at Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, Mamajek and his team were able to observe and measure the rings of J1407b as it eclipsed its local star (an eclipse that lasted a whopping 52 Earth days). As the Sun-like star moved behind the rings, they measured the starlight as it filtered through the belts of space dust at varying degrees.

In some spots the light was blocked almost entirely, while in others the space dust was more spread out — letting more light filter through.

"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," said Matthew Kenworthy of the Leiden Observatory.

"The star is much too far away to observe the rings directly, but we could make a detailed model 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."

Scientists believe that the dust and debris that comprise the rings could eventually clump together, and form moons around J1407b.

"We see the rings blocking as much as 95 percent of the light of this young Sun-like star for days, so there is a lot of material there that could then form satellites,” said Mamajek.

The scientists' findings were published in the recent issue of the Astrophysical Journal.



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J1407b, a planet 420 light years away, has a ring system like Saturn, but one that is much bigger, scientists have recently discovered.
j1407b, exoplanet, rings, saturn
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2015-12-27
Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015 07:12 AM
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