Discovery of Largest ring around Saturn
- On 6 October 2009, the discovery was announced of a tenuous outer disk of material that is in the plane of Phoebe’s orbit, which is tilted 27 degrees from Saturn’s equatorial plane.
- The ring is from 128 to 207 times the radius of Saturn, and is thought to originate from micrometeoroid impacts on Phoebe, which orbits at an average distance of 215 Saturn radii.
- The ring material should thus share Phoebe’s retrograde orbital motion, and after migrating inward would encounter Iapetus’s leading face, which could explain the two-faced nature of this satellite.
- NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered this enormous ring around Saturn which is the largest of the rings discovered so far.
- It’s bulk starts from 6 million kms and extends roughly to 12 million Kms. The ring is tenuous, made up of a thin array of ice and dust particles.
- Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest planet in the Solar System, after Jupiter.
- Saturn, along with Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, is classified as a gas giant.
- Together, these four planets are sometimes referred to as the Jovian, meaning “Jupiter-like”, planets.
- Saturn has a prominent system of rings, consisting mostly of ice particles with a smaller amount of rocky debris and dust.
- 61 known moons orbit the Saturn part from , not counting hundreds of “moonlets” within the rings.
- Titan, Saturn’s largest and the Solar System’s second largest moon (after Jupiter’s Ganymede), is larger than the planet Mercury and is the only moon in the Solar System to possess a significant atmosphere.
- The planetary rings make Saturn the most visually remarkable object in the solar system.
- They extend from 6 630 km to 120 700 km above Saturn’s equator, average approximately 20 meters in thickness, and are composed of 93 percent water ice with a smattering of tholin impurities, and 7 percent amorphous carbon.
- The particles that make up the rings range in size from specks of dust to the size of a small automobile. There are two main theories regarding the origin of Saturn’s rings. One theory is that the rings are remnants of a destroyed moon of Saturn. The second theory is that the rings are left over from the original nebular material from which Saturn formed.