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New ring around Saturn discovered: NASA

world Updated: Oct 09, 2009 19:47 IST

PTI
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A new huge dust ring around Saturn has been detected by NASA scietists, a discovery which might explain why one side of Iapetus, one of the giant planet's 61 moons is relatively dark.

The new ring, which is the largest among all rings of Saturn, is located farthest from other rings and inclined at an angle of 27 degrees to the plane of the other rings, according to NASA.

"Astronomers have long suspected that there is a connection between Saturn's outer moon, Phoebe, and the dark material on Iapetus. This new ring provides convincing evidence of that relationship," Douglas Hamilton of the University of Maryland quoted by NASA website.

The new ring is thought be formed as a result of the accumulation of debris and dust particles emitted from Phoebe, when it has some minor collisions with comets -- a process similar to that around stars with dusty disks of planetary debris.

The ring, which also has traces of ice in it, follows the same orbit around Saturn as Phoebe, while Iapetus, the other rings and most of the moons move in opposite direction.

According to the scientists, some of the dark and dusty material, emitted from Phoebe, moves toward Iapetus, slamming the icy moon like bugs on a windshield, thus making its one side significantly darker than the other.