Rings on edge

Rings on edge

Fig. 11.10 . These images were taken from the Hubble Space Telescope over a four-year period, from 2003 to 2007 (left to right), as Uranus moved along one twentieth of its 84-year journey around the Sun. As viewed from the Earth, the rings are always nearly perpendicular to the planet’s orbital plane, but they gradually close up from partly open to edge on. When tiled edge-on to Earth, on 14 August 2007, the rings appeared as spikes above and below the planet, within a fan-shaped glare – an image artifact. The fainter outer rings appear in the 2003 image, but were not noticed until they were seen in the 2005 image. Uranus has a total of 13 dusty rings. (Courtesy of NASA/ESA/M. Showalter, SETI Institute.)

Copyright 2010, Professor Kenneth R. Lang, Tufts University