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This Planet has Rings 200 Times Larger than Saturn

J1407b, which was first observed in 2015, has a ring system that is 200 times larger than Jupiter's (the largest in our solar system). Its home planet is likewise massive; we're not sure if it's a gas giant or a brown dwarf. It has thus far been described as a stellar body of the super-Jupiter type.

If Saturn had the same rings, they would have a diameter many times greater than the moon in the night sky, just to give you an idea of how ridiculously big this ring system is. It wouldn't just be obvious to the unaided eye; it would also predominate the scene. The exoplanet has roughly 30 layers of rings in total.


 Artistic rendering of the exoplanet and its impressive rings. Image via Wikimedia.


''It would be massive. As one of the co-authors of the study announcing the results, Matthew Kenworthy of the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands noted at the time, "You'd see the rings and the gaps in the rings fairly readily from Earth. It would be much larger than the full moon.''


J1407b was the first exoplanet with a ring system that was definitively identified, so perhaps the size of its rings also played a role. It's also the only exoplanet we've found so far with rings.

However, such rich manes of rings do not persist for very long in the cosmological sense. As new moons are created from the massive amount of material slicing and dicing through J1407b's rings, scientists anticipate that the rings will become thinner over the next several million years, eventually disappearing. At only 16 million years old, J1407b is also quite young when compared to planets in our solar system. There are 4.5 billion years between the Sun and Earth.

Therefore, it's probable that enormous ring systems are only made possible by young energy. We simply don't know right now. It takes a lot of chances to detect ring systems using the techniques we use to find exoplanets (planets outside of our solar system).

Our closest planets are where we now learn the most about planetary ring systems. There may exist greater rings than those boasted by J1407b, but we won't know about them until we have a clearer view of deep space or, even better, can travel there.

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