EAGLE-EYED astronomers at the University of Warwick could have found a space monster.
They believe they could have identified a giant gas planet, circled by a ring of dust, hurtling around a star more than a thousand light years away – around 5,900 trillion earth miles.
And astronomers think moons are forming in the habitable zone around the huge star – 50 times the mass of Jupiter – meaning life could potentially thrive within the system.
The planet is thought to be eclipsing the light from its nearest star – PDS 110 in the Orion constellation, which is same temperature and slightly larger than our sun – which has been regularly blocked by a mysterious object, baffling astronomers around the world.
Astronomers believe the rapidly changing light from the star suggests there are rings in the eclipsing object which are many times larger than the rings around Saturn.
The next eclipse is expected to take place in September and even amateur astronomers will be able to see it.
Hugh Osborn, a researcher from Warwick’s astrophysics group, said: “September’s eclipse will let us study the intricate structure around PDS 110 in detail for the first time, and hopefully prove that what we are seeing is a giant exoplanet and its moons in the process of formation.”
The eclipse will also be a chance to explore conditions for forming planets and their moons at an early time in the life of a star, giving a unique insight into what might have happened when our solar system was formed.
Artist’s impression of the giant gas planet orbiting the star PDS 110. Image courtesy of University of Warwick. (s)