Saturn’s invisible ring earned it the status of the largest ring in the solar system, according to the 2009 discovery made by the scientists from NASA.
Saturn’s outer ring is called Phoebe and it was discovered back in 2009. Astrophysicist Douglas Hamilton and his colleagues used the infrared imaging technology of Spitzer Space Telescope and were able to come out with fresh data on the ring. It is 270 times larger than Saturn’s size itself and 10 times larger than the planet’s biggest ring called The E ring.
The outer ring received its name following the scientists’ findings that the material which constitutes it comes from Saturn’s moon, Phoebe. Captures of the planet fail to imortalize the ring however, due to the fact that its black color mixes with the blackness of the space surrounding it.
The scientists examined it in the infrared spectrum and were able to tell that it is even larger than they have previously believed, by approximately one-third. Even so, before 2009, nobody could see Phoebe, but scientists suspected that a ring of dark particles exists around Saturn.
This clue was given to them by Iapetus, Saturn’s moon, which has a unusual appearance, to say the least. The icy moon has one white side while the other is black. This fact helped the scientists into thinking that the black side of the moon owes its color to an invisible ring that pushes through it.
Saturn’s moon is similar to our moon in one respect; it shows to its planet just one side of it at all times.
In their new study, Hamilton and his colleagues, tried to get a complete view of Phoebe, this time using a different infrared telescope. If we could see Phoebe it on a night sky it would look twice the size of our moon.
The ring’s orbit is 27 degrees tilted from the main ring plane and the material’s bulk beginning at 3.7 million miles from the planet.
Apart from the discovery of Phoebe huge size, the scientist also looked at the components which the ring is made of. It mostly consists of small particles and dust grains. Yet they are very far from one another and even if Phoebe size is impressive, it is really thin, almost gauze-like.
“Now that we know more about Saturn’s invisible ring”, Douglas Hamilton said, “it raises the question of whether other planets in our solar system may also have secret rings to reveal”.
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