London, Oct 7 (ANI): An enormous ring around Saturn - by far the largest of the giant planet's many rings - has been discovered by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.
The new belt lies at the far reaches of the Saturnian system, with an orbit tilted 27 degrees from the main ring plane.
The bulk of its material starts about 6 million kilometers (3.7 million miles) away from the planet and extends outward roughly another 12 million kilometers (7.4 million miles).
One of Saturn's farthest moons, Phoebe, circles within the newfound ring, and is likely the source of its material.
Saturn's newest halo's vertical height is about 20 times the diameter of the planet. It would take about one billion Earths stacked together to fill the ring.
"This is one supersized ring," said Anne Verbiscer, an astronomer at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.
"If you could see the ring, it would span the width of two full Moons' worth of sky, one on either side of Saturn," the expert added.
The ring itself is tenuous, made up of a thin array of ice and dust particles. Spitzer's infrared eyes were able to spot the glow of the band's cool dust.
Verbiscer; Douglas Hamilton of the University of Maryland, College Park; and Michael Skrutskie, of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, are authors of the discovery paper.
It will be published online by the journal Nature. (ANI)