All of us have heard about Saturn’s rings, which are the biggest of them in the solar system, and which can be observed easily using a telescope from the Earth. Even so, in 2012 the first planet out the solar system with rings was discovered: J1407b.
This planet, discovered in 2012, is situated in our galaxy, the Milky Way, and at a distance of 133 light years. Its star belongs to Centaur constellation. It is calculated that this planet weights much more than Jupiter. The scientific team that discovered it, calculated that, J1407b weights, approximately, between 10 and 40 Jupiter masses, which is a very big error margin.
The rings of the planet J1407b are the biggest of them known in our days. They are greater in size and weight than Saturn’s rings, as they are 200 times bigger than them.
The data analyse about these so big rings (leaded by Mateo Kenworthy), shows that this ring system is composed by a minimum of 30 big, or principal, rings, that at the same time group together an enormous quantity of them which are much smaller. This phenomenon takes also place in the case of Saturn’s rings. In effect, in Saturn we can observe 4 principal rings, but in reality he owns between 500 or 1000 rings.
The ring system of J1407b start at a distance of 30 million kilometres from the planet, and they extend in a surface of about 90 millions of kilometres, which makes that, as I said, they are 200 times bigger than Saturn’s rings. In comparison, Saturn’s rings have a diameter of 400 000 kilometres.
Another typical characteristic from the Saturn rings system, is that there are spaces, or empty holes, between the different rings. Moving this characteristic to the planet J1407b, it can mean that this planet has satellites, as these empty spaces between the different rings are normally due to the presence of satellites that orbit around the planet, which cause this type of holes between the rings.
According to the scientists that have studied the planet, the composition of the rings of J1407b wouldn’t be the same that that from Saturn’s rings. It seems that J1407b’s rings would be formed by dust. This has an explanation: J1407b is a so hot planet (between 100 and 200 Celsius degrees), that they think that it isn’t possible that the rings could be formed by ice or frozen rocks, the opposite to the composition of Saturn’s rings, which is mainly formed by ice.
How it would be seen in the solar system
The planets from the solar system are sometimes visible at first sight, but nevertheless it can be difficult to identify them and they can be confused with other stars. However, the scientists say that if we could replace Saturn’s rings for those from J1407b, in theory they would be very easily visible during the night., as they affirm that they would be some times bigger than the full moon. They also affirm that the empty spaces between every ring due to their big dimensions.
The team of this investigation found out this planet along with its rings when they eclipsed to their star. Normally, to discover exoplanets, which are planets further away from the solar system, the brightness of the star is studied. For consequent, when a planet goes through the star and the Earth, the brightness descends a little bit, which permits to identify a possible planet.
In the case of J1407b, the scientists observed, halfway through 2007, an unusual brightness that stayed there for two months, during which the curve of its light started to twinkle continuously. After that, the team that observed the star arrived to a final conclusion: the single solution to this problem was that an enormous spaced ring system was turning around a planet. In 2015 it was discovered that it was the planet J1407b.