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22 September 2017 19:00 (South Africa)

Seems Saturn just can’t get enough rings

Space scientists pointed the Spitzer Space Telescope at Saturn and – surprise - discovered the giant planet has a whole new ring system we never knew about before. This thin ring of ice and dust particles is at the far reaches of the Saturnian system and, unlike the inner rings, this newly discovered ring system’s orbit is tilted 27 degrees from the planet's main ring plane and angle of rotation. The Nasa-Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s spokeswoman said this newly discovered ring does not reflect much visible light, but does reflect the infrared light Spitzer can detect. Although the ring dust is cold - minus 316 degrees Fahrenheit - it shines with thermal radiation. Why has it only been discovered now? Well, no one had looked at its location with an infrared instrument until now, she said. The ring starts about 3.7 million miles from the planet and extends outward about another 7.4 million miles. The newly found ring is so huge it would take a billion Earths to fill it.

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