Friday, October 30, 2009

NASA Space Telescope Discovers Largest Ring Around Saturn

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered an enormous ring around Saturn -- by far the largest of the giant planet's many rings.

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 six 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 is thick, too -- its 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." Verbiscer; Douglas Hamilton of the University of Maryland, College Park; and Michael Skrutskie, of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, are authors of a paper about the discovery to be published online tomorrow by the journal Nature.

An artist's concept of the newfound ring is online at .

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. The telescope, launched in 2003, is currently 107 million kilometers (66 million miles) from Earth in orbit around the sun.

The discovery may help solve an age-old riddle of one of Saturn's moons. Iapetus has a strange appearance -- one side is bright and the other is really dark, in a pattern that resembles the yin-yang symbol. The astronomer Giovanni Cassini first spotted the moon in 1671, and years later figured out it has a dark side, now named Cassini Regio in his honor. A stunning picture of Iapetus taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft is online at

Saturn's newest addition could explain how Cassini Regio came to be. The ring is circling in the same direction as Phoebe, while Iapetus, the other rings and most of Saturn's moons are all going the opposite way. According to the scientists, some of the dark and dusty material from the outer ring moves inward toward Iapetus, slamming the icy moon like bugs on a windshield.

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

Verbiscer and her colleagues used Spitzer's longer-wavelength infrared camera, called the multiband imaging photometer, to scan through a patch of sky far from Saturn and a bit inside Phoebe's orbit. The astronomers had a hunch that Phoebe might be circling around in a belt of dust kicked up from its minor collisions with comets -- a process similar to that around stars with dusty disks of planetary debris. Sure enough, when the scientists took a first look at their Spitzer data, a band of dust jumped out.

The ring would be difficult to see with visible-light telescopes. Its particles are diffuse and may even extend beyond the bulk of the ring material all the way in to Saturn and all the way out to interplanetary space. The relatively small numbers of particles in the ring wouldn't reflect much visible light, especially out at Saturn where sunlight is weak.

"The particles are so far apart that if you were to stand in the ring, you wouldn't even know it," said Verbiscer.

Spitzer was able to sense the glow of the cool dust, which is only about 80 Kelvin (minus 316 degrees Fahrenheit). Cool objects shine with infrared, or thermal radiation; for example, even a cup of ice cream is blazing with infrared light. "By focusing on the glow of the ring's cool dust, Spitzer made it easy to find," said Verbiscer.

These observations were made before Spitzer ran out of coolant in May and began its "warm" mission.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology, also in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. The multiband imaging photometer for Spitzer was built by Ball Aerospace Corporation, Boulder, Colo., and the University of Arizona, Tucson. Its principal investigator is George Rieke of the University of Arizona.

For additional images relating to the ring discovery and more information about Spitzer, visit and


  1. (3) (orbital station ramp)... On Track, besides, there are 3 (one at down in Earth-Station, one at middle in Rhombus-structure, and one at top in Ramp-Station) special powerful automatic maglev-vehicles which, in case of emergency, would go out to Train´s encounter and equaling speed between both: soft contact and braking and both stopping... On Train, besides, 2 gigantic and folded in little compartments resistant graphene´s parachutes with a rigid central-ring for Track passing through: one parachute at Train´s front only for emergency when Train goes climbing, and so, it could return "softly" to ground... And other parachute at Train´s rear with a sophisticated system also maglev of rigid central-ring for Track passing parachute´s through without hitching... On come back, at 9,000 kms height (exosphere) maglev central-ring is launched and pulling extracts and, when according it descends goes sufficiently increasing for it the Atmosphere´s density, deploys its parachute probably 100 kms height´s below...when Train comes hyper-speedy and maglev-braking falling towards Earth, for avoid now already Gravity´s regulating with a major or minor Distance between Train and canopy´s rigid-central-ring of the parachute: max Distance, chute totally deployed max braking...less Distance, chute partially deployed less braking. System of rear parachute which normally before touch ground is automatically refolded, bringing again the canopy´s central-ring into its Train´s compartment and coiling the canopy and its fine cords around motorized gyratory cylinders)... Train enters on terminal horizontal-track and stops in Earth-Station.

  2. (orbital station bike wheel-1g)... geostationary orbit, a huge "bike-wheel" is gyrating around its own axis for have 1g-centrifugal. Wheel held in place with 4 CABLES (each cable with a track for Train, for both trains crossing ↓↑) FORMING THE STRUCTURE OF A RHOMBUS♦ (minor diagonal of rhombus is the gyration-axis of the Station-Wheel)...rhombus´s below, the carbon nanotube´s Track towards Earth...rhombus´s above, the Cable towards a higher counterweight... if...WHEEL´s RADIUS = 250 mts...Wheel gyration´s Axis length = rhombus´s minor diagonal = Wheel´s radius = 250 mts... Cable´s length of the rhombus´s side = Wheel diameter = 500 mts. Wheel´s ZONE-1g: habitable length = 1571 mts*50 mts wide*50 mts height, gyrating 360º each 31 seconds, angular-speed = 11.61º/sec, linear-speed (tangential) = 182 kms/h... Station-Wheel´s GYRATION: AXIS IN PERPENDICULAR (90º) ORIENTATION TO THE ORBITAL TRAJECTORY...and so, while Station-Wheel follows its geostationary orbit, the Wheel does Not changes the spatial-orientation of its axis, and thus there are Not Precession forces actuating (and thus there is Not torsion´s force against Track)... Wheel with maneuver´s tangential-rockets for gyration´s start, or...gyration emergency stop...and maneuver´s axial-rockets for reorientation of Wheel´s axis, if it is necessary: because the Earth´s axis slightly and very slowly goes oscillating cyclically due to nutation and precession...that oscillation evidently produces transversal traction pulling of the Track towards aside from its anchoring on equator, thus would have an also slight pendular movement side to side and it would produce precession´s movements of the Wheel´s axis and thus a not wished torsion of the Track...but the system must supporting lateral charges, in the same orbital plane and thus without precession´s problems on the Wheel´s axis, of acceleration against W→Track←E produced by the Coriolis effect when movement´s direction is perpendicular to the gyration´s axis, that lateral charge is maximum on equator (there, a vertical movement is perpendicular tø Earth´s axis) and zero on poles (there, a vertical movement is parallel tø Earth´s axis); upwards charge to West, downwards charge to East; the gyroscopic-rigidity contributes for maintaining the gyration-axis perpendicular to the orbital trajectory... When the Maglev Train slowly arrives (Train with one opened ╚╝ side in its technical maglev-zone all along over Track for can passing for both tracks: main-Track/rhombus-track/again main-Track), using now cogwheels on Zipper-Track (zippers installed on the same Maglev-Track), Train stops in Geo 0g-Station placed over one Extreme of the Gyration-Axis, next to «Port for Spacecrafts»... Passengers disembark and entering into gyratory circular corridor, they take now the interior-elevator of one of the Wheel´s hollow-radius (also could be an exterior-elevator running for a simple zipper-radius), and tunnel "descending" till Hotel into the final Zone-1g...where while Station-Wheel goes turning, the immense O2 producer Hydroponics Garden receives a filtered Sun light...and there are Earth´s awesome views.

  3. ☼↓↓▓0.08g▬▬▬←▬▬▬▬▬↓☺▬▬♦1g▬→▬▬1g...Space-elevator (orbital station ramp)... Faraway high beyond Earth surface at 150,000 orbital speed 11.4 kms/sec...with only 0.08g centrifugal, 0.8 mts/sec² (a person who has 80 kgs ↓ gravitational force on Earth equator radius=6378.1 kms; over there with a radius=156378.1 kms only has 6.64 kgs ↑ centrifugal force...gravitational force downwards minus centrifugal force upwards)...could be, if someday is cheap the maglev-track, the counterweight Terminal Orbital Station-Ramp... Awaits passengers in Earth-Station a hyperspeed vertical electric Train of Magnetic Levitation... "Spatial Train coming from Orbital Station-Ramp and Orbital Station-Wheel at these moments arriving will depart again after one hour, passengers with Moon destination please embark on SHIP-COACH when will be hooked at Train´s end"... (((if...Train´s mass=10 Tm and its vertical max-speed=10000 kms/h... CORIOLIS´s EFFECT AGAINST TRACK ↓to East, ↑to West: acceleration=0.4 mts/sec², FORCE=0.41 Tm... How Track is attached on Earth´s equator, this Lateral Thrust occur in the same orbital plane, orbit forward or backward, and thus almost there are Not Precession´s problems in the System...except because due to slight cyclic oscillation (nutation and precession) of Earth´s axis, would that doing each a certain time a little correction, with their own axial maneuver´s rockets, for reorientation of Wheel´s Axis)))...medium-speed = 5,000 kms/hour: Earth/Orbital Station-Wheel, distance = 35,786 travel time = 7 hours... Orbital Station-Wheel/Orbital Station-Ramp, distance = 114,214 travel time = 23 hours... Well seized from retractable cogwheels, with slow-speed at the beginning travel of strong gravitation from Earth, with conventional Zipper-Track: MAGLEV-ON...COGWHEELS-ON... THE TRAIN DEPARTS►... "Passengers please belts"...starting horizontal from Station, when train goes climbing is VERTICAL, looking upwards...vertical-train with special zig-zag corridor with protections and seats also in the center for avoiding passenger´s fall down in straight line till coach´s bottom... Already enough far (100 kms height: that train still would weight...9692 kgs↓ - 35 kgs↑ = 9.65 Tm↓, thus its maglev strength would must be at least 10 Tm↑ thrust...), with some minor gravitational Earth attraction: Cogwheels off... Here we go...goooooo!...constant acceleration upwards...Maglev hyperspeed→... Already braking enough near from each Station...slow-speed, changes propulsion system again: COGWHEELS on... Entering in slow-track on rhombus structure... 7 hours: half length above half length below through Station´s floor, Train is on rhombus inclined track at zero-speed, near from Water-Recycling Plant with carbon nanotube´s filters...and the other Air-Filtering Plant with catalysts...the passengers disembark in weightlessness: Geo 0g-Station...passing from static-platform to gyratory circular corridor, go taking soon an interior-elevator in one of the hollow-radius and "descending"...finally, the passengers have arrived at destination: Wheel centrifuge 1g-Station, with its gyration´s-axis perpendicular to the orbital trajectory... A Wheel with 500 mts in diameter, gyrating 360º each 31 seconds (((10 Floors with 25 mts in height each one...a person with 80 kgs mass, would have in each Floor a centrifugal force:... Floor 1: 1.04g=84 kgs... Floor 2: 0.94g=75 kgs... Floor 3: 0.84g=67 kgs... Floor 4: 0.73g=59 kgs... Floor 5: 0.63g=50 kgs... Floor 6: 0.52g=42 kgs... Floor 7: 0.42g=34 kgs... Floor 8: 0.31g=25 kgs... Floor 9: 0.21g=17 kgs... Floor 10: 0.1g=8.4 kgs)))...gyrating into 4 cables, each cable with a track for Train, a rhombus structure forming for Wheel´s supporting...