First Image Of Disk Around Alien Planet Compared To LOTR’s Eye Of Sauron

by : Cameron Frew on :
First Image Of Disk Around Alien Planet Compared To LOTR's Eye Of SauronNew Line Cinemas/ESO

Astronomers have captured the first-ever image of a disc of debris surrounding an alien planet. Be careful though, only ‘the Terrible few can endure’ its gaze. 

Known officially as a circumplanetary disc, it’s believed to be around 500 times larger than Saturn’s rings and surrounds a Jupiter-like exoplanet called PDS 70c, orbiting a star nearly 400 lightyears away.


It’s the first time the presence of a disc outside our solar system has been formally identified, coming after hints of a ‘moon forming’ disc, with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) working with astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA). It’s hard to deny, though – it looks like the Eye of Sauron from Lord of the Rings.

The 'Eye of Sauron' disc. (ESO)ESO

‘Our work presents a clear detection of a disc in which satellites could be forming,’ Myriam Benisty, a researcher at the University of Grenoble, France, and at the University of Chile, who led the new research published The Astrophysical Journal Letters, said in a statement.

‘Our ALMA observations were obtained at such exquisite resolution that we could clearly identify that the disc is associated with the planet and we are able to constrain its size for the first time,’ she added. The exoplanet was previously imaged using infrared wavelengths in 2019, but the ALMA has allowed for more detail in the newest photo.


The disc is said to have the same diameter as the distance from Earth to our Sun (151.98 million km), and has enough mass to form up to three satellites the size of the Moon.

Moon-forming disc around the PDS 70c exoplanet as seen with ALMA. (ESO)ESO
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‘These new observations are also extremely important to prove theories of planet formation that could not be tested until now,’ Jaehan Bae, a researcher from the Earth and Planets Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution for Science, said.

ESO explained how ‘planets form in dusty discs around young stars, carving out cavities as they gobble up material from this circumstellar disc to grow… in this process, a planet can acquire its own circumplanetary disc, which contributes to the growth of the planet by regulating the amount of material falling onto it.’


Multiple outlets have likened the image to Mordor’s terrifying entity, with several people cracking ‘One ring to rule them all’ jokes and one user responding: ‘Not now alien disk.’

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Cameron Frew

Entertainment Editor at UNILAD. 2001: A Space Odyssey is the best film ever made, and Warrior is better than Rocky. That's all you need to know.

Topics: Science, Lord of the Rings, Now, Space


European Southern Observatory
  1. European Southern Observatory

    Astronomers make first clear detection of a moon-forming disc around an exoplanet