Astronomers find star with giant ringed planet


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Astronomers now think that a sunlike star about 1,000 light years away dips in brightness every 2.5 years because an orbiting ringed planet or ringed dwarf star blocks the star’s light.

They discovered that every two and a half years, the light from this distant star – PDS 110 in the Orion constellation, which is same temperature and slightly larger than our sun – is reduced to thirty percent for about two to three weeks. Two notable eclipses observed were in November 2008 and January 2011. “What’s exciting is that during both eclipses we see the light from the star change rapidly, and that suggests that there are rings in the eclipsing object, but these rings are many times larger than the rings around Saturn,” says Leiden astronomer Matthew Kenworthy.

Assuming the dips in starlight are coming from an orbiting planet, the next eclipse is predicted to take place in September this year – and the star is bright enough that amateur astronomers all over the world will be able to witness it and gather new data. Only then will we be certain what is causing the mysterious eclipses.

If confirmed in September, PDS 110 will be the first giant ring system that has a known orbital period. [emphasis in original]

Just so no one is confused, this is not Tabby’s Star. There, the dips in light are seemingly random and follow no pattern, other than an overall dimming for the past century.

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2 comments

  • Joe

    Worlds without end in a universe without ends, this is real science. We need better telescopes than we have now, or a real time machine!

  • LocalFluff

    Rings of giant planets are sure signs of moons. Rings are basically moons that have come too close to their planet, as they spiral inwards from friction with the protostellar disk of gas, so that tidal forces smash them into ring particles. The larger moons of Jupiter and Saturn are those that happened to still be around when their path around the Sun had gotten cleared. So there should be Enceladus and Europa like moons outside the edge of that ring. No exomoon has yet been confirmed, but it’s just a matter of time. If these ideas aren’t completely bonkers. (The formation of Earth’s moon of similar size as the Jovian moons and captured Triton is of course a unique exception, that can’t have happened anywhere else…)

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