Wednesday, 28 January 2015
Astronomers have discovered a group of giant rings around an extrasolar planet. The network of rings is 200 times the size of those orbiting Saturn, 420 million light-years from the Earth. “It is the first time that someone has seen such a large network outside the solar system,” Matthew Kenworthy (astronomer at the Leiden observatory in the Netherlands) told AFP. He led the project with Eric Mamajek from the University of Rochester (USA).
The planet, named J140b, is surrounded by approximately 30 rings “so large that if Saturn had similar ones, they would be visible from the Earth with the naked eye. They would be 5 to 10 times larger than the full moon,” he explained.
The planet in question is not visible from the Earth, and is probably very hot (between 1,000 and 2,000 degrees Celsius). This leads astronomers to believe the rings are made of dust, unlike Saturn’s rings, which are made of ice.
Scientists used data from the SuperWASP project to draw its conclusion. The project collated data from 10 years’ worth of star observation.