Planet Saturn has been over the centuries the subject of many questions and debates among the astronomers. Despite being a gaseous planet hundreds of times bigger than Earth, Saturn is unique firstly for its beautiful rings. Well, it’s unique as far as we know, judging by what humanity has seen until now by studying the solar system and a few dozens of exoplanets.
But is Saturn truly unique in the whole Universe? There are trillions of other stars out there, and scientists predict that most of them have planets orbiting around. In this case, it seems almost impossible not to find another planet similar to Saturn, and a Nigerian astronomer believes he made the big discovery.
Not exactly like Saturn
Uranus also has rings, although not so beautiful and elegantly-shaped as those of Saturn. An international team of scientists led by Babatunde Akinsanmi (who is a PhD student at the Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences and the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto) found some clues indicating that the HIP 41378 f exoplanet has rings like Uranus. The rings are a little inclined.
However, the newfound exoplanet has a very low density that is shocking the astronomers, as the Nigerian astrophysicist himself somehow admits:
These ‘cotton candy’ planets are a rare class of exoplanets, with densities much lower than that of the giant planets in the Solar System. It is difficult to explain these very low densities and that is why we decided to investigate what was happening
Furthermore, the planet system where the bizarre exoplanet is located (namely HIP 41378) is very interesting because it has five planets in transit. It’s 348 light-years away from us, and it requires further explorations for the astronomers to convince themselves that the HIP 41378 f exoplanet really has rings surrounding it. Therefore, we can wait for further results to be published.