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Astronomers at the Leiden Observatory, The Netherlands, and the University of Rochester, USA, 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 researchers encourage amateur astronomers to help monitor J1407, which would help detect the next eclipse of the rings, and constrain the period and mass of the ringed companion. Observations of J1407 can be reported to the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). In the meantime the astronomers are searching other photometric surveys looking for eclipses by yet undiscovered ring systems.
The dwarf stars in the 26 year period binary alpha Com were predicted to eclipse each other in early 2015. That prediction was based on an orbit model made with over 600 astrometric observations using micrometers, speckle interferometry, and long baseline optical interferometry. Unfortunately, it has been realized recently that the position angle measurements for three of the observations from ~100 years ago were in error by 180 degrees, which skewed the orbital fit. The eclipse was likely 2 months earlier than predicted, at which point the system was low on the horizon at sunrise.
Authors: Matthew W. Muterspaugh, M.J.P. Wijngaarden, H.F. Henrichs, Benjamin F. Lane, William I. Hartkopf, Gregory W. Henry
Dust arises when asteroids and comets collide, so its location reveals where these dust-creating objects—which are too small to be seen directly—orbit a star. In Tau Ceti's case, “it's quite a wide dust belt,” says Samantha Lawler of the University of Victoria in British Columbia. As her team reported in November, the belt's inner edge is roughly two to three astronomical units (AUs) from the star, which is the position of our own sun's asteroid belt. Tau Ceti's dust belt extends out to 55 AU, which would be just beyond our system's main Edgeworth-Kuiper belt, the zone of small bodies whose largest member is probably Pluto. Presumably full of asteroids and comets, Tau Ceti's dust belt most likely lacks a planet as large as Jupiter, Lawler says. The gravity of such a massive planet would have ejected most small space rocks.
Aims: The object W Aql is an asymptotic giant branch (AGB) star with a faint companion. By determining more carefully the properties of the companion, we hope to better constrain the properties of the AGB star.
Methods: We present new spectral observations of the binary star W Aql at minimum and maximum brightness and new photometric observations of W Aql at minimum brightness.
Results: The composite spectrum near minimum light is predominantly from the companion at wavelengths λ< 6000 Å. This spectrum can be classified as F8 to G0, and the brightness of the companion is that of a dwarf star. Therefore, it can be concluded that the companion is a main sequence star. From this, we are able to constrain the mass of the AGB component to 1.04–3 M⊙ and the mass of the W Aql system to 2.1–4.1 M⊙. Our photometric results are broadly consistent with this classification and suggest that the main sequence component suffers from approximately 2 mag of extinction in the V band primarily due to the dust surrounding the AGB component.
Authors: T. Danilovich, G. Olofsson, J. H. Black, K. Justtanont, H. Olofsson