Saturn on steroids: J1407b

If you read Isaac Asimov’s 1986 novel “Foundation and Earth”, you’ll remember how the main characters of the book (Councilman Golan Trevize, historian Janov Pelorat, and Gaian Bliss) were amazed by Saturn’s rings. They were thinking the gas giant with preeminent rings in old stories was just a myth. But after seeing Saturn, they made sure that they found the solar system which contains the Earth, the original home of humanity.

Now, imagine how would they react if they knew (if Isaac Asimov knew) about J1407b, the infamous gas giant with a gargantuan ring system which is located 434 light-years away from Earth.

It can also be a brown dwarf – which is bigger than a gas giant, but still, are not massive enough to sustain nuclear fusion.

Its star, 1SWASP J140747.93−394542.6 (also known as 1SWASP J140747, J1407, and Mamajek’s Object) is a star similar to the Sun.

Exoplanet J1407b and its rings
J1407b and its rings, an artist’s conception. Image source: University of Rochester website

Discovered in 2012 by Astronomer Eric Mamajek at the University of Rochester and his co-author from the Leiden Observatory, The Netherlands, J1407b’s ring system estimated at is nearly 120 million kilometers (74.5 million miles), more than two hundred times as large as the rings of Saturn, in diameter. It consists of over 30 rings, each of them tens of millions of kilometers in diameter.

Scientists also found that there are gaps in the rings, which indicate that satellites (“exomoons”) may have formed.

J1407b is the first exoplanet or brown dwarf discovered with a ring system by the transit method. A sequence of occultations (eclipses) of the star occurred over a 56-day period in 2007. The pattern was consistent with that expected for the transit of a large array of multiple rings.

J1407b has not been observed since its transit in 2007, suggesting that it is on a highly eccentric orbit around the star.

Unfortunately, just like Saturn’s rings, this amazing ring system won’t last forever. Astronomers expect that the rings will become thinner in the next several million years and eventually disappear as satellites form from the material in the disks.

The computer model that fits the light curve of the star J1407 seen in SuperWASP data in 2007. The model is described in Kenworthy and Mamajek (2015), to be published in the Astrophysical Journal. The code for this model is at github.com/mkenworthy/exorings
In this video, Anton Petrov talks about the biggest ring system ever found in the universe and a star system that may represent the baby solar system and explain the evolution of stars and planets.

Sources

J1407b on the Space Engine Fandom website
1SWASP J140747.93−394542.6 on Wikipedia
Ring System on Wikipedia
Foundation and Earth fandom website
Foundation and Earth on Wikipedia
“Gigantic ring system around J1407b much larger, heavier than Saturn’s” on the University of Rochester website

M. Özgür Nevres

I am a software developer, an ex-road racing cyclist, and a science enthusiast. Also an animal lover! I write about the planet Earth and science on this website, ourplnt.com. You can check out my social media profiles by clicking on their icons.

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