Astronomers and scientists have been posed with the question, “Is our solar system unique and unlike any other?”. Well that’s a very broad and hard question to answer because there are other solar system in the universe. Scientists have discovered these other planets orbiting stars like our own but are the planets in a certain from just like ours?
Let’s discuss one major uniqueness in our solar system, planets with planetary rings. The planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are all gas giants with planetary rings. The question is why are these the only planets with rings in our solar system? Are there other planets in other solar systems that have rings or are our planets unique?
Well scientists have just begun to find solar systems hosting planets with planetary rings. Exoplanet J1407b has been confirmed to have planetary rings, and this has only been confirmed because of how massive the rings are. The rings are estimated to be the size that Earth sits from the Sun. This exoplanet is one of a few that have been discovered to host rings. Are planetary rings just very rare in the universe, or are their many planets with rings but very hard to see?
The biggest problem with fining exoplanets with planetary rings is that the rings are usually to small to see. You can’t detect them with gravitational lensing because the gravity by the rings is so small compared to the gravity by the planet or its host star. The most ideal way to detect rings on a planet now is by using transit light curves. But even with this method, if the rings are too small to detect than we will never know if the planet has them.
The idea here is that we can’t tell with our current technology whether our solar system is unique and unlike many others. With the vast distance that separate us with other solar systems, the capabilities of finding out whether our structured solar system is like any other will only be found in the years to come.
Astronomers are closing in on exoplanetary rings … (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2017, from http://www.astronomy.com/news/2017/04/finding-ringed-exoplanets