Second Incredibly Massive Ring around Saturn discovered.
A giant ring around Saturn is even larger than thought, spanning an area of space nearly 7,000 times larger than Saturn itself, researchers say.
“We knew it was the biggest ring, but now we find it’s even bigger than we thought, new and improved,” the study’s lead author, Douglas Hamilton, a planetary scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park, told Space.com.
The immense ring was discovered around Saturn in 2009. The dark grains of dust making up this faint ring are probably debris that cosmic impacts knocked off the gas giant’s distant and equally dark moon Phoebe.
Astronomers first suspected the existence of the Phoebe ring after looking at one of Saturn’s other moons, Iapetus.
“Like our moon, Iapetus always has one side facing toward Saturn, which means it also always has one side pointing in the direction of its motion around Saturn, its leading side,” Hamilton said. “Iapetus is an icy moon, and intrinsically bright white, but its leading face is very strikingly jet black. That contamination is what led us to look for what turned out to be a surprisingly large ring.”