Forbes reported this week that analysis of data, gathered by astronomers in the Netherlands in 2012, indicates that the team has discovered the first large ring system outside our solar system.
With an estimated 30 rings, each tens of millions of kilometers in diameter, it is not totally clear whether the rings, which dwarf those around Saturn by nearly 200 times, are circling either a giant planet or brown dwarf star called J1407b.
To identify the rings, the team analyzed data gathered as it passed in front of the parent star J1407. The astronomers were able to measure the changes in the light from the star over the several weeks of the transition.
“We could make a detailed model based on the rapid brightness variations in the star light passing through the ring system,” said Leiden Observatory’s Matthew Kenworthy in a statement.
“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.”
Observing the light streaming through the rings, astronomers have also determined that it is likely the moons may have also formed and exist within the ring system.