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ringed planet

Oxygen detected on Saturn moon

Pasadena, Calif. -- NASA's Cassini space probe orbiting Saturn has found evidence of an atmosphere on Rhea, one of the ringed planet's moons, U.S. researchers say.

The spacecraft has detected a very thin atmosphere containing oxygen and carbon dioxide around the icy moon, a NASA release said Friday.

This marks the first instance of a spacecraft directly capturing molecules of an oxygen atmosphere -- admittedly a very thin one -- at a world other than Earth, scientists said.

The formation of oxygen and carbon dioxide, as detected on Rhea, could possibly drive complex chemistry on the surfaces of many icy bodies in the universe, researchers say.