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Astronomers Observe Planet Surrounded By Rings Much Larger Than Saturn’s

by Brandon Russell | January 31, 2015January 31, 2015 5:00 pm PDT

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Astronomers believe they’ve spotted a super Saturn, a kind of system with rings much larger than anything previously seen.

The discovered planet inside this system is bigger than Jupiter (up to 40 times larger), and contains a ring system that’s believed to be millions of miles in diameter—about 200 times bigger than the rings of Saturn. For perspective, Saturn’s rings are about 70,000 kilometers (43,496 miles) across. You can imagine how incredibly large that is.

This is the first ring system spotted outside our solar system, but don’t go relegating Saturn to second-best just yet. Astronomers haven’t observed the rings directly; instead, they made a detailed model based on data collected while observing a Sun-like star known as j1407.

Let’s imagine for a moment these rings do exist: astronomer Matthew Kenworthy says if we replaced them with the rings around Saturn, they’d be visible from Earth, and “many times larger than the full moon.” You can see what that might look like in the picture below.

Astronomers say the ring system will eventually dissipate, but that won’t happen for millions and millions of years. When it does, satellites are expected to form from the material in the disks. It makes you wonder how large Saturn’s ring system used to be years and years ago.

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Rochester

Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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