ASU Nexus for Exoplanet System Science

Planet with Possible Large Ring System Discovered Orbiting PDS 110

Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, Space Science Institute

PDS 110 was being monitored by Wide-Angle Search for Planets (WASP) when a graduate student, Hugh Osborn, noticed a strange shadowing effect on the star.  Thinking it was a mistake in the instrumentation it was disregarded for over 2 years.  After the two years passed, another astronomer noticed the same shadowing on PDS 110 with completely different instrumentation and ignorant to Osborn’s prior discovery of it.  This raised many scientists’ attention and thus began a large amount of modeling and speculation as to what could be causing this.  The effect was recorded to last about 25 days on PDS 110 with a so far noted period of 800 days.  The next measurement should be around September 2017 if this follows the same periodicity from the first two measurements.  The reason this is exciting to the astronomical community is due to the fact only one planet has been discovered thus far to have rings.  If this discovery is in fact a planet with a large ring system, it is speculated to be 200 times wider than Saturn’s ring system.  Others state it could be a planet with a cloud of debris around it and not an actual ring system, but many of the models show that a planet of this periodicity and relationship with its star would most likely result in a ring system.  This discovery could help answers about early ring development in planets, answering many questions astronomers have toward Saturn and the other gas giants’ formation of their rings.  Others are excited to see if maybe this is how moons form early in a planet’s formation.  More information and data collection will take place on this planetary system, and will hopefully reveal more about early ring formation to better understand how solar systems evolve.


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