Giant rings encircle young exoplanet | Science News


Help us keep you informed.

Real Science. Real News.


Giant rings encircle young exoplanet

Stretching 90 million kilometers from their center, stripes of dust probably crafted by moons

10:00am, February 1, 2015
Exoplanet J1407b

RING AROUND THE PLANET   Thirty-seven rings sculpted by unseen moons surround the exoplanet J1407b in this artist’s illustration.

Move over, Saturn. The rings around exoplanet J1407b have got you beat by a long shot. Thirty-seven rings extending 90 million kilometers from the planet — over half the distance from the Earth to the sun — encircle the world. These planetary rings are the first found outside the solar system.

The rings are probably shaped by moons forming around the young planet, which is 434 light-years away in the constellation Centaurus. One large gap in the rings is probably being cleared by a moon less than 80 percent the mass of Earth, astronomers report January 23 on

Researchers mapped the rings using data from the SuperWASP project, a pair of observatories in the Canary Islands and South Africa. Scientists first reported the rings in 2012, when the unseen planet passed between Earth and its star, casting a series of shadows toward Earth that lasted for 56 days.

Scientists suspect that rings may be common

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now. Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content