A young exoplanet called J1407b has a gigantic ring system that’s much heavier and about 200 times larger than the rings of Saturn. Astronomers discovered the giant planet or possibly a brown dwarf (that is, a failed star) when it eclipsed a very young sun-like star called J1407. This ring system—the first of its kind to be discovered outside the solar system—has at least 30 rings, each of which measures tens of millions of kilometers in diameter.
“You could think of it as kind of a super Saturn,” University of Rochester’s Eric Mamajeksays in a news release. Mamajek’s team discovered the star and its unusual eclipses in 2012 using data from a survey designed to detect gas giants moving in front of their parent star. Then, using adaptive optics and Doppler spectroscopy, a team led by Matthew Kenworthy of Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands found that the repeated diming of J1407’s starlight was caused by a giant planet with an enormous ring system. The findings will be published in The Astrophysical Journal.
Here’s the artist’s full conception of the extrasolar ring system circling J1407b with Saturn and its ring system to scale for comparison (that little bright dot in the upper right quadrant). The rings are shown eclipsing the star J1407, as they would have appeared in early 2007.