New paper accepted on the ringed exoplanet J1407b

A new paper has been accepted for publication in MNRAS (Monthly Notices of the Astronomical Society) by Dr Phil Sutton titled “Mean Motion Resonances With Nearby Moons: An Unlikely Origin For The Gaps Observed In The Ring Around The Exoplanet J1407b”.

J1407b is a large exoplanet (more than 20 times the mass of Jupiter) orbiting its star over 400 lightyears away from Earth. Like many exoplanets before, it was discovered by the transit method which detects a dip in a star’s brightness as a planet passes in front it. However, the star J1407 showed a prolonged and irregular dip in brightness that was attributed to a ring orbiting the planet 200 times larger than Saturn’s ring system. Modelling of this transit showed it was not uniform and instead had gaps. In Saturn’s rings gaps are caused by nearby moons outside the rings or smaller moons inside the rings that gravitationally clear a gap.


Figure 1 | A gap between the B and A ring, which can be seen from Earth, is caused by an orbital resonance with the nearby moon Mimas. Ring particles orbit twice for every orbit of the moon causing a resonance effect (2:1).


Figure 2 | Daphnis, one of Saturn’s many moons, carves out a gap from within the A ring.

In the paper computer simulations we carried out to investigate if nearby moons could create a gap at the locations predicted by the transit. Similar to how Mimas creates the Cassini Division. It was discovered that it was not possible to form gaps in the ring due to moons orbiting outside the ring. In order to create the expected gaps in the ring a moon would need to be too close to outer edge of the ring system, which would cause significant distortion of the ring.

Figure 2

Figure 3 | The radial and angular position of ring particles taken at a time of a) 10 orbital periods and b) 50 orbital periods for ring particles located at 0.4AU (Astronomical Units). The moon is located at the 3:1 MMR (Mean Motion Resonance) with ring particles at 0.4AU. In this scenario we find that the moon is far enough away that there is no significant distortion or scattering of the ring edge with a moon mass 0.3 Earth masses. No obvious perturbation of particles located at 0.4AU is observed during the same time period with only one gap formed at the 2:1 MMR (0.523 AU).

Figure 11

Figure 4 | The eccentricity and radial position of ring particles is shown at a time of 50 orbital periods of particles located at . This is the same time and model as in Fig 2b. The nearby moon is placed at a 3:1 MMR with ring particles at . There is only evidence of the 2:1 MMR located at  in this plot. The eccentricity shows where ring particles are being perturbed by the moon with the location of resonances more clearly identified.

Further details on other models using different locations of the moon can be found here.

Prestige Lecture: Suzie Imber: Scientist, Mountaineer, Astronaut

IOP Lincoln Centre

24 January 2019 at 6:30 pm – tea/coffee, 7:00 pm – start

We are delighted to announce that Dr Suzie Imber, Associate Professor of planetary science at the University of Leicester, and winner of BBC2 series “Astronauts: Do you have what it takes” has agreed to give our Prestige Lecture this winter in Lincoln.

The lecture finishes at 20:20 followed by an informal discussion with the speaker and light refreshments.

Isaac Newton Lecture Theatre, Isaac Newton Building, University of Lincoln, Brayford Pool, LN6 7TS Lincoln, Lincolnshire, Lincoln, United Kingdom

To book a place email to: Debra Brown (

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Lincolnshire-born former NASA astronaut, Michael Foale CBE, returns home to share his extraordinary tales from outer space.

An article on the event along with comments by Dr Phil Sutton, an astrophysicist at the University of Lincoln, is available on The Echo website. Below is further details about the event:

Pint of Science, in collaboration with the University of Lincoln and the International Space School Trust, are proud to launch the upcoming, “An evening with astronaut Michael Foale”. This unmissable event marks the homecoming of Lincolnshire-born astronaut, Michael Foale, so he can share tales and personal videos from his time in space. Join us in welcoming him home at the Isaac Newton Building, Brayford Campus, University of Lincoln, on Thursday, 17th January, to hear our local hero tell exciting tales from his time in outer space, including a nail-biting account of what happened when the Russian Mir space station he was aboard collided with an unmanned supply vessel.

As the most experienced British-born astronaut, Michael accrued 373 days in space – flying on six space shuttle missions, a Soyuz, and commanding the International Space Station. In 1995, he became the first Briton to perform a spacewalk – saving the Hubble telescope in the process. So astounding was Michael’s time as an astronaut, he was inducted into the NASA Astronaut Hall of Fame Class of 2017 at the Kennedy Space Center. Now that he’s been brought back to Earth, Michael returns home to regale the local crowds with remarkable tales from his space shuttle missions, life at the International Space Station, and what it’s like to actually walk in space. Don’t miss out on this dazzling opportunity to find out what life is really like when you’re out of this world.

This event is suitable for all ages, though we recommend ages 7+. The venue is fully accessible and has step-free access. There will be an interval during the event where drinks will be available.

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Tickets for “An evening with astronaut Michael Foale” are now on sale and can be purchased online at

Ticket prices: Adults £18, Concession £12 [children, students (with valid student ID), 60+, & those with a registered disability].

Date: Thursday, 17th January

Time: Doors open at 7:00PM, show starts at 7:30PM.

Venue: Isaac Newton Lecture Theatre, Isaac Newton Building, Brayford campus, Lincoln, LN6 7TS

About Pint of Science

Pint of Science is a non-profit organisation run by volunteers which aims to make science accessible to the public. The main event is an annual festival which takes place simultaneously in pubs across the world over 3 days in May (20-22nd May, 2019). Whilst every science evening during the festival is unique, each includes at least two experts presenting their research. It is co-ordinated by a small central Pint of Science team who work alongside volunteers predominantly based in local universities. A full line-up and tickets will be released for the main event on 9th April, 2019. More information is available at

About International Space School Trust

International Space School Trust (ISSET) works in partnership with some of the world’s leading space organisations to deliver unique learning opportunities for students of all ages. They utilise space and space exploration to inspire and motivate people of all ages to believe that they can become what they want to be. More information is available at

Article Discussing Interstellar Travel Published in Principium

A short article discussing the implications of the Gaia spacecraft on future interstellar travel by Dr Phil Sutton is published in Principium, the quarterly newsletter of the Initiative for Interstellar Studies.


Here, we consider how understanding the positions and movement of stars within our galaxy is important for future missions that might travel beyond our own solar system. One key thing to consider is that stars do not move on Keplerian orbits about the galactic centre and are difficult to understand. Part of this non-Keplerian motion comes a random relative velocity that increases in time due to close encounters with other stars. However, some of the movement of the stars in the galaxy is influenced by dark matter and its distribution. Better understanding how the stars move in our galaxy can help us map out the dark matter more accurately and in turn guide our spacecraft to other stars, at some point in the future.

The full newsletter and article can be found here.

Isaac Newton Christmas Lecture 2018

Distinguished Maths & Physics Public Lectures

Much ado about nothingness: some perspectives from history and physics

a duo public lecture (including 20 minutes interval) by

Professor Anna Marie Roos

School of History & Heritage, University of Lincoln


Dr Fabien Paillusson

School of Mathematics & Physics, University of Lincoln

Wednesday 19 December 2018

6 pm – 7:45 pm

Newton Lecture Theatre INB0114 in the Isaac Newton building, University of Lincoln

This special Christmas lecture consists of two short parts of 25-30 minutes each with 20 minutes interval, during which a bar will be open where visitors can buy mulled or usual wine and soft drinks. After the second talk there will be some time for questions.

Book a place

Saying anything about nothing, (and not the other way around), has surprisingly been of interest to Western thought for a very long time. In this duo lecture by Prof Anna Marie Roos from the School of History…

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