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Photo via University of Rochester
Artist conception via University of Rochester

Researchers have discovered a ring system — the “first of its kind” — around a young, sun-like star that dwarfs anything in our solar system.

Astronomer Eric Mamajek at the University of Rochester and co-author Matthew Kenworthy of Leiden Observatory in The Netherlands discovered the ring system in 2012. At 120 million kilometers, it is more than 200 times as large as the rings of Saturn and contains “roughly an Earth’s worth of mass in light-obscuring particles.”

The rings are around the star called J1407 — or “Ringo.” as we’ve affectionately dubbed it since “J1407” is really boring. There are more than 30 rings around Ringo, with large gaps between, in which the researchers have also found satellites, or “exomoons,” which also sound very cool.

“The details that we see in the light curve are incredible,” Kenworthy said in a University of Rochester release. “The eclipse lasted for several weeks, but you see rapid changes on time scales of tens of minutes as a result of fine structures in the rings. The star is much too far away to observe the rings directly, but we could make a detailed model based on the rapid brightness variations in the star light passing through the ring system. If we could replace Saturn’s rings with the rings around J1407b, they would be easily visible at night and be many times larger than the full moon.”

“This planet is much larger than Jupiter or Saturn, and its ring system is roughly 200 times larger than Saturn’s rings are today,” added Mamajek. “You could think of it as kind of a super Saturn.”

So there you have it — a “super Saturn” has been discovered. Their results will be published in Astrophysical Journal.

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