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Kepler May Uncover Numerous Ring Worlds

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the from-which-monkeys-might-hypothetically-fly dept.

Space 75

astroengine writes "According to a new publication, NASA's Kepler exoplanet-hunting space telescope may soon start discovering Saturn-like ringed alien worlds. So far, none have been positively identified, as Kepler has only detected exoplanets orbiting close to their parent stars; if these exoplanets have rings, they are most likely to have rings facing edge-on to their orbits, making them nearly impossible to detect. As more distant-orbiting exoplanets are detected, there's more likelihood ringed worlds will be tilted, allowing Kepler to see them."

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75 comments

I am disappoint (3, Insightful)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 2 years ago | (#36066708)

I was hoping it meant Niven-like ringworlds, not saturn-like. Still cool though.

Re:I am disappoint (0)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 2 years ago | (#36066940)

Me too. Another misleading title...

Re:I am disappoint (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36067450)

Forget the ring stuff, I was hoping the title meant Johannes Kepler was still alive.

Re:I am disappoint (1)

Maritz (1829006) | more than 2 years ago | (#36067996)

I'm glad he's gone.

Re:I am disappoint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36068220)

So is Tycho. both glad and gone!

Re:I am disappoint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36071472)

I'm glad he's gone.

Why, you owe him money or something?

Even More Misleading than Usual (0)

billstewart (78916) | more than 2 years ago | (#36068290)

Slashdot seems to have started putting numbers after the article titles, so I saw it as "Kepler May Uncover Numerous Ring Worlds 34", which is obviously a Rule 34 site for Ringworld fans. Imagine my disappointment when I found that it just mean there were 34 comments on the article, and it's now "Kepler May Uncover Numerous Ring Worlds 37"...

Re:I am disappoint (1)

KingBenny (1301797) | more than 2 years ago | (#36085664)

at least it means you can imagine something like a larry niven ringworld, you know ... what einstein said and stuff about imagination, i got scorned a lot for reading sci-fi, m glad a lot of people recognize the sci in fi now

Re:I am disappoint (2)

RMingin (985478) | more than 2 years ago | (#36066962)

Normally I'd mock you, but I, too, misread the title as "finding more ringworlds" and wondered when we had found the first.

Re:I am disappoint (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#36070426)

Editing for headlines and summaries really need to improve. "Ringed worlds" would have been better.

What do /. editors do all day if not edit stories?

Re:I am disappoint (1)

Sicily1918 (912141) | more than 2 years ago | (#36075830)

I was gonna say the same thing (about the headline, that is -- I welcome our Slashdot overlords...).

Re:I am disappoint (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36067086)

I want to poke the author of that title in the eye.

Re:I am disappoint (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36067114)

Yeah, because it would be awesome to live in a universe in which your ancestors are a collection of ultra-smart, viscious child tending machines that can transmute matter, build ring worlds, travel 30,000 lys and want to destroy you and your planet because you smell wrong.

Re:I am disappoint (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 2 years ago | (#36067404)

It would be pretty awesome, yes. The Brennan monster beats them off and we only lose one colony world because of Truesdale and as I recall the inhabitants of the Ringworld are about as Pak-like as humanity. Known Space ends up being pretty big and - Kzinti aside - pretty safe for humans.

Re:I am disappoint (2)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 2 years ago | (#36067596)

Known Space ends up being pretty big and - Kzinti aside - pretty safe for humans.

Well, except for that whole massive explosion at the core of the galaxy thing, but we've got a couple tens of thousands of years to figure that out, right? :)

Re:I am disappoint (2)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 2 years ago | (#36070150)

Known Space ends up being pretty big and - Kzinti aside - pretty safe for humans.

Well, except for that whole massive explosion at the core of the galaxy thing, but we've got a couple tens of thousands of years to figure that out, right? :)

Well, if the core explosion has an intelligence behind it's cause, then your sig posits one possible intent:

"This Space Intentionally Left Blank"

Who knows? Might be the initial site-prep for a hyperspace bypass. You could always check at the office on Alpha Centauri. (Helpful Hint: Bring leopard-repelling rock.)

Strat

Re:I am disappoint (1)

lysdexia (897) | more than 2 years ago | (#36071206)

Plus, there ain't nothin' like chillin' in your Bandersnatch-skeleton trophy room.

Re:I am disappoint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36074282)

It would be pretty awesome, yes. The Brennan monster beats them off...

How? I thought the genitals atrophied in Pak protectors.

Re:I am disappoint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36074562)

Pak-like? Are you talking about Indians? Those are quite like Pak's. They don't like Pak's, though. But, then again who does?

Re:I am disappoint (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36067602)

And they could teach you to spell "vicious".

Re:I am disappoint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36068700)

I doubt it. I'm as good at spelling as a Kzinti is at tending a garden.

Re:I am disappoint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36067924)

What would also be quite cool is if all those ringworlds were ruled by the single ring around Saturn, and Sol was actually a great eye to stare out at them, and all shall love it and despair.

Re:I am disappoint (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#36068248)

Yeah, because it would be awesome to live in a universe in which your ancestors are a collection of ultra-smart, viscious child tending machines

Tiger Moms. FTW!

Re:I am disappoint (2)

mattcoz (856085) | more than 2 years ago | (#36067272)

Yeah, a huge difference between "ring worlds" and "ringED worlds".

Re:I am disappoint (2)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | more than 2 years ago | (#36068226)

Yeah, a huge difference between "ring worlds" and "ringED worlds".

Worlds with erectile dysfunction tend to die out rather quickly, so I don't think we'll find too many of them...

Re:I am disappoint (2)

EdZ (755139) | more than 2 years ago | (#36067830)

The question is, what would be the occultation signature of a ringworld (or a ringworld's Shadow Square) that we should be looking for with Kepler?

Re:I am disappoint (1)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 2 years ago | (#36068376)

Any society with the capacity to engineer and build such a construction wouldn't need one.

Re:I am disappoint (2)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#36070044)

Any society with the capacity to engineer and build such a construction wouldn't need one.

We didn't need to go to the moon. If we do meet biological intelligences out there in the vasty deeps, it'll be quixotic ones.

Re:I am disappoint (1)

lysdexia (897) | more than 2 years ago | (#36071250)

People always forget Don Quixote's child who took over that mill. She became the head of a large oat-grinding fortune and was one of the unsung heroines of protestantism, an early Quaker in fact. Her name?


Dawn Quickoats.

Re:I am disappoint (1)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 2 years ago | (#36074214)

You misunderstand. Any species intelligent enough to build a Niven ring or similar megastructure wouldn't need to because it would be a trivial parlor trick. Their knowledge of physics would approach what we could only describe as magic. The God-like beings required to make such a massive thing would have no desire to do it, they would have long since evolved beyond the need or want of them.

Re:I am disappoint (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 2 years ago | (#36070948)

That's an interesting thought experiment. I have to spend some time on the bus soon - an excellent thing to think about.

Re:I am disappoint (1)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 2 years ago | (#36078866)

It connects back to the idea that on a timeline of evolution from single cell to space faring race (and beyond) the window where life takes the form of something resembling humanity in capabilities and appearance is very small. Life on earth spent hundreds of millions of years in primitive form, then humans evolved sentience, and eventually we will evolve into something else; god-like beings. Or more likely we'll die out or destroy ourselves. So if we ever find life on another planet it will almost certainly be either too primitive to communicate with us in a meaningful way (probably bacteria or plants) or so advanced that it wouldn't bother or want to, and we wouldn't even recognize it as life or be capable of perceiving it. Niven rings are impressive to humans because they appeal to human ideas of grandeur and creation, but would they impress a god?

Re:I am disappoint (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 2 years ago | (#36086318)

The angular momentum of a Niven Ring is going to be LOTS, so to apply sufficient torque to get it to precess is also going to require LOTS of torque. Which means lots of mass - for a gravitational torque.

So, unless the inhabitants are deliberately precessing it - to signal? - using the attitude jet system, it's going to be very stable. So if we're seeing the star today, we'll be seeing it tomorrow and on into the future, unless the normal processes of galactic circulation takes us into the part of space occulted by the Ring (as seen from the star), we're unlikely to see any significant change.

Actually, this is inherent in the stories (and I've enough confidence in Larry Niven to have done his homework, or at least to have had his numbers checked since the embarrassment of that song to expect him to be right on this) : the Pak built the RingWorld (sorry, am I spoiling things for people who haven't read the whole series?) for protection against the Core Explosion. So they expected it to stay properly oriented w.r.t. the Core over inhumanly-long time scales.

There is a minor caveat : the shadows of the Shadow Squares will overlap the edges of the Ring significantly - otherwise there would be parts of the Ring without a day-night cycle. Therefore there would be two narrow regions with the on-off signal of the Shadow Squares. Which would be interesting, particularly since the Shadow Squares can have their spacing changed from the Repair Centre. That would provide a very difficult-to-interpret signal.

Discuss?

RingED worlds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36072160)

The term would be a ringed world would it not?

Ringworld (2)

Ultra64 (318705) | more than 2 years ago | (#36066726)

This reminds me that I need to re-read Ringworld

Re:Ringworld (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36067016)

Beat me to the punch.

The title should read RINGED worlds, not Ringworlds.

Missing Rings (4, Funny)

retroworks (652802) | more than 2 years ago | (#36066814)

Kepler should keep its eye out for the planets that remove their rings and place them in their pockets. They show attraction, but part without saying goodbye the next morning.

Re:Missing Rings (1)

physburn (1095481) | more than 2 years ago | (#36067134)

Kepler should keep its eye out for the planets that remove their rings and place them in their pockets. They show attraction, but part without saying goodbye the next morning.

But that would mean... converting the telescope to a cheaterscope, also known as a don't tell-(the partner)-oscope.

---

Extra Solar Planets [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

Re:Missing Rings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36068822)

I'd be much more concerned if they kept touching them and saying "Preciousssssss..."

Don't they have a pill for that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36066834)

On ringworld. Well that makes a lot more sense. I see I have some geekin to catch up on. How long before I become a full fledged geek? Any books other than the tolkien fairy tales? I got the nerd part covered, just need to geek up.

Seems not unlikely (2)

jimmyhat3939 (931746) | more than 2 years ago | (#36066890)

I'm not sure why one would view this as surprising -- given our own Solar System it seems like a highly likely outcome.

That being said, it's great the the resolution has reached the levels where features like this can be distinguished for such faint objects.

Using rings to learn more about planets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36066928)

This is great work, and was covered in a little more detail on Astrobites last week: Could Rings Exist Around Kepler “Warm Saturns”? [astrobites.com]

One of the most interesting possibilities is not just that Kepler could find rings around planets, but that observations of the rings' orientation could be used to learn more about the gravitational potentials of exoplanets (and therefore their internal structure).

hymenology council; rings on our fingers.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36067060)

with even more deception monday just hours away, it will be less than interesting to observe how the chosen one(s) stand-up routines maintain that terror is an imported problem, & that the fake weather is from god, & that we must be defended from it, no matter that we cause/allow it ourselves. somebody's got to pay the profitsized holycost, as our rulers do not, & may only profit from the deeds they commit on our behalf, in service to the deities, above, & below, amen.

disarm. read the teepeeleaks etchings... please. thank you.

Ring Worlds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36067504)

*sonic the hedgehog special stage music plays*

so what (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36067570)

If it hasn't done it yet then it's not news.

Might as well do a story on how it might discover a Dyson Sphere!

Re:so what (1)

Jake Dodgie (53046) | more than 2 years ago | (#36067674)

Didn't you know, a Dyson Sphere radiates energy that makes it look like a Red Giant, so we may have already discovered hundreds of them.

Re:so what (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36067956)

A red giant has a surface temperature of ~3500 K, so it is way too hot to be a Dyson sphere. Maybe you meant an ultra-cool brown dwarf such as CFBDSIR 1458+10B [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:so what (1)

Corse32 (682019) | more than 2 years ago | (#36069748)

+1 Quite the non-story isn't it. Or at least the summary's written so blandly as to strip any interestingness out of it... Either way, I was disappointed enough to comment, but nowhere near interested enough to click through.

Ring world (1)

SuperTechnoNerd (964528) | more than 2 years ago | (#36067990)

I wonder if a rocky planet like Earth with the right conditions for life or with life, could ever have significant rings. What a sight that would be living on that planet.

Re:Ring world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36068348)

Earth actually did have rings - shortly after being whacked by another planet and shortly before the ring(s) coalesced to form our moon.

Re:Ring world (1)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 2 years ago | (#36070482)

A series of mining accidents on the moon, couple with a few thousands years of orbital decay might accomplish that goal.

I can't seem to find info on how long-lived (3, Insightful)

Maritz (1829006) | more than 2 years ago | (#36068026)

Ring systems like Saturn's are likely to last. I seem to recall reading some opinion that they might only persist for a few hundred million years as opposed to billions of years, meaning we might be quite lucky to see them. If Kepler is indeed able to detect enough of them to build up a statistical picture then we might get a better idea of how long-lived such systems tend to be in general. Some of Saturn's rings are quite obviously kept more stable by so called 'shepherd' moons that also maintain the little gaps or grooves between rings...

They wouldn't last long near a star (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#36070188)

Most (all?) exoplanets discovered so far are close to their stars. Saturns rings are ice. They'd evaporate in no time so if we do find any rings they'd have to be made of rock which is probably rather unlikely. Its one thing breaking up passing ice comets, its another to break up a rocky world via gravity and that close in most other planets would have been swallowed by the star, flung out or eaten by the gas giant.

http://www.happyshopping100.com (-1, Offtopic)

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not really sure of the point (2)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 2 years ago | (#36070440)

As far as I understand the article, it's that
1) ring planets are likely to be further from their main sun, due to solar pressure driving away small particulates
2) we're seeing planets further from their sun, so it's more likely we'll see ringed planets.

Just seems that this isn't much of a piece of news - it's not really discussing a new technology or technique, it's just saying that our ability to see more means we'll be more statistically likely to see something rare.

This is why I stopped reading science stories here (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 2 years ago | (#36071058)

As of the current moment, almost every single up-modded comment is making reference to a certain sci-author and his work.

If you have nothing relevant to say why say anything at all?

(Yes, yes, hoist with my own petard)

Distribution of solar system angles? (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 2 years ago | (#36072434)

Okay, I am late to this story, so doubt I will get a good reply, but here goes anyway

Do we have any idea of the distribution of solar system plane angles relative to our own? We can only see planets using the transit method if they are close to the same plane as our own. The further away a plan from its star, the closer this relative angle must be. We could assume that the planes of rotation are equally distributed to make guesses about what we can't see. But is this a fair assumption? Do we have any clues on the distribution of these angles relative to our own? If so, where do we get this data?

And Who Would be the Engineers???? (1)

gpronger (1142181) | more than 2 years ago | (#36106624)

Not likely. There can't be that many 3-legged mule like species in the Universe. (If you understand the post, then understand that I know that I'm wrong, a bit of artistic license taken here.)
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