Saturnís enormous infrared ring

Saturnís enormous infrared ring

Fig. 10.30 . This artistís conception illustrates the infrared glow of cold dust particles in Saturnís largest ring, discovered using the Spitzer Space Telescope in 2009. The very tenuous collection of ice and dust particles is spread out in an enormous belt at the far reaches of Saturnís system, with an orbit tilted 27 degrees from the main ring plane. The bulk of its material starts about six million kilometers away from the planet, and extends outward another 12 million kilometers. The ringís diameter is equivalent to roughly 300 times the diameter of Saturn. The planet appears as just a small dot in the middle of this portrayal. The inset shows an enlarged image of Saturn, as seen by the W. M. Keck Observatory at Mauna Kea, Hawaii, in infrared light. Saturnís retrograde moon Phoebe circles within the newfound ring, and is likely the source of its material. Dark material dislodged from Phoebe may also be the source of the dark side of Saturnís next innermost moon, two-faced Iapetus. (Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Keck.)

Copyright 2010, Professor Kenneth R. Lang, Tufts University