Massive New Ring Detected Around Saturn
Massive New Ring Detected Around Saturn
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A three-member team of U.S. astronomers say they have discovered a giant new ring around the planet Saturn.

A thin sheet of ice and dust particles extending about 12 million kilometers out from the planet's surface has been detected by the U.S.-built Spitzer Space Telescope.

Officials with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the ring is so big it would hold the equivalent of one billion Earths.

The trio of astronomers, led by Anne Verbisher of the University of Virginia, believe the ring was formed by debris from the impact of comets striking Phoebe, a moon of Saturn that orbits within the ring.

The astronomers believe the ring also solves the mystery behind another of Saturn's moons, Iapetus, which has a light and a dark side.  

They say the dark side of Iapetus is caused by dust particles from the ring striking its surface.

The Spitzer telescope, launched in 2003, is currently 107 million kilometers from Earth in orbit around the sun.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP, CNN and NASA.