Astronomer Eric Mamajek at the University of Rochester and his co-author from the Leiden Observatory, The Netherlands, have discovered that the ring system that they see eclipse the very young Sun-like star J1407 is of enormous proportions, much larger and heavier than the ring system of Saturn. The ring system – the first of its kind to be found outside our solar system – was discovered in 2012 by a team led by Rochester’s Eric Mamajek.
A new analysis of the data, led by Leiden’s Matthew Kenworthy, shows that the ring system consists of over 30 rings, each of them tens of millions of kilometers in diameter. Furthermore, they found gaps in the rings, which indicate that satellites (“exomoons”) may have formed. The result has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.
“The details that we see in the light curve are incredible. The eclipse lasted for several weeks, but you see rapid changes on time scales of tens of minutes as a result of fine structures in the rings,” says Kenworthy. “The star is much too far away to observe the rings directly, but we could make a detailed model based on the rapid brightness variations in the star light passing through the ring system. 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.”
“This planet is much larger than Jupiter or Saturn, and its ring system is roughly 200 times larger than Saturn’s rings are today,” said co-author Mamajek, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester. “You could think of it as kind of a super Saturn.”
Artist’s conception of the extrasolar ring system circling the young giant planet or brown dwarf J1407b. The rings are shown eclipsing the young sun-like star J1407, as they would have appeared in early 2007. Credit: Ron Miller
Nextbigfuture – The Reaction Engines team are expanding in staff and activities to complete the SABRE demonstrator programme, with delivery on track for 2019. The company has relocated to larger premises on Culham Science Centre; consolidated its two manufacturing subsidiaries to a single new location in Didcot; and is recruiting across the company, ready for the design, manufacture and testing of the full SABRE engine cycle. This growth phase has also included the purchase of new, bespoke equipment which will enable Reaction Engines to manufacture its proprietary SABRE pre- coolers in-house, at full scale.
Nextbigfuture – Paul March provided an update on the NASA Eagleworks experiments with the EMDrive. Experimental Thrust is at 50 micronewtons but need at least 100 micronewtons to go to Glenn Research Center (GRC) for a replication effort in the next few months
The NASA Eagleworks Lab is still working on the copper frustum thruster that was reported on last summer at the AIAA/JPC. They have now confirmed that there is a thrust signature in a hard vacuum (~5.0×10^-6 Torr) in both the forward direction, (approx. +50 micro-Newton (uN) with 50W at 1,937.115 MHz), and the reversed direction, (up to -16uN with a failing RF amp), when the thruster is rotated 180 degrees on the torque pendulum. However they continue to fight through RF amplifier failures brought on by having to operate them in a hard vacuum with few $$$ resources to fix them when they break, so the desired data is coming along very slowly.
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