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Saturn’s mysterious outer ring is larger than previously thought

A recent study on the rings of Saturn has revealed that the Phoebe ring or the planet’s biggest ring is larger than previously thought. The face of the thickness cannot be observed with the naked eye as the ring consists of tiny particles.Saturn-AP1

This Phoebe ring is not clearly seen and appears faint on an astronomical scan. The study has revealed that this ring is 200 times bigger than previously thought, and darker with tiny particles, giving it a mysterious appearance. In 1671, Givanni Domenico Cassini observed the moon called Lapetus using a telescope, and discovered that Saturn has a secret ring. The moon was quite mysterious with one side white and other side entirely black. Earlier, scientists believed that Lapetus was  plowing through a ring of dark material that was not observed from Earth.

“It is 10 to 20 occasions bigger than the second-largest ring, so this factor is completely gargantuan,” said College Park planetary scientist and research lead writer Douglas Hamilton, University of Maryland.

Hamilton and his team studied the images from NASA’s WISE telescope and confirmed that the outermost ring is greater than Saturn and has small unidentified particles inside it. Researchers believe that the unknown particles are ice particles from a micro-meto the planet’s moon Phoebe. The Phoebe ring is known to orbit Saturn in a retrograde direction and is slightly titles about 27 degrees like other rings.

The images from NASA telescopes revealed that the Phoeobe ring starts to stretch about 3.7 million miles from the planet it orbits, and then expands about 10 million miles away. The vertical distance is about 1.5 million miles. The stunning discovery had made researchers to study more images of Saturn, and its rings to reveal information regarding the Saturnian evolution system.

The scientists detailed their findings in the June 11 issue of the journal Nature.

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About Anirudh Madhav

A movie buff, a bookworm, and a compulsive doodler. All posts by Anirudh

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