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Saturn’s icy rings may be giving the planet an ultraviolet glow

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The rings that make Saturn such a spectacle are probably heating its atmosphere and making it glow at ultraviolet wavelengths.

Researchers detected an excess of ultraviolet emission in Saturn’s northern hemisphere that comes from hydrogen atoms. The emission, known as Lyman-alpha radiation, is probably the result of water ice, which contains hydrogen, falling into the atmosphere from the planet’s rings, the researchers propose March 30 in the Planetary Science Journal.

The detection of similar emission from a distant world could someday lead to the discovery of a Saturn-like planet orbiting another star.

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