Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ring around Saturn discovered by NASA Space Telescope

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered an enormous ring around Saturn, the telescope, launched in 2003, is currently 107 million kilometers (66 million miles) from Earth in orbit around the sun.

This artist's conception shows a nearly invisible ring around Saturn

The new belt lies at the far reaches of the Saturnian system, with an orbit tilted 27 degrees from the main ring plane. The bulk of its material starts about six million kilometers (3.7 million miles) away from the planet and extends outward roughly another 12 million kilometers (7.4 million miles). One of Saturn's farthest moons, Phoebe, circles within the newfound ring, and is likely the source of its material.

Saturn's newest circle of light is thick and vertical height is about 20 times the diameter of the planet. It would take about one billion Earths stacked together to fill the ring.

This picture shows a slice of Saturn's largest ring, as seen in infrared light by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope

The ring itself is tenuous, made up of a thin array of ice and dust particles. Spitzer's infrared eyes were able to spot the glow of the band's cool dust.

The discovery may help solve an age-old riddle of one of Saturn's moons - NASA