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Uranus Ring System
Uranus Ring System (click to enlarge)

Uranus Ring System
Date: 24 Jan 1986

This dramatic Voyager 2 picture reveals a continuous distribution of small particles throughout Uranus' ring system. Voyager took this image while in the shadow of Uranus, at a distance of 236,000 km (142,000 miles) and a resolution of about 33 km (20 ml).

This unique geometry -- the highest phase angle at which Voyager imaged the rings -- allows us to see lanes of fine dust particles not visible from other viewing angles. All the previously known rings are visible in the "Hi-Res" version, however, some of the brightest features in the image are bright dust lanes not previously seen.

The combination of this unique geometry and a long, 96 second exposure allowed this spectacular observation, acquired through the clear filter of Voyager's wide-angle camera. The long exposure produced a noticeable, non-uniform smear as well as streaks due to trailed stars.

What Scientists/Engineers Say About This Image:

"Without a doubt, my favorite image from the Voyager 2 Uranus flyby is this high resolution, high phase view of the rings. I vividly remember watching this image as it was displayed on the monitor for the first time and being completely amazed at what I saw! The nine narrow rings were now joined by a whole host of previously unknown belts of fine dust that were enhanced by the backlighting of the rings. Some of these wispy dust belts were even brighter than the major rings in this image. Later, I eagerly looked through the Voyager photopolarimeter (PPS) stellar occultation data of the Uranian rings for evidence of these newly discovered dust bands. What a spectacular flyby!"

--Linda Spilker: Cassini Project Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

"This is the only forward scattered light image to reveal structure (since it was the only 96-second exposure). When this image first came down, the science team was holding their daily science team meeting. The room exploded with excitement since the other forward scattered light images didn't reveal any structure. The funny part was that someone yelled out, 'This has to be a joke. Someone must've placed a Saturn image up on the monitors.' The room believed this statement and returned to their science discussions. Then someone else cried out, 'Look at the FDS count (the computer clock associated with formatting the data). It's a Uranus image!' The room exploded again with amazement."

--Randii Wessen: Science Systems Engineer, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

"When this image appeared on the screen, there was an audible gasp, followed by a comment that someone was trying to fool us by slipping in an image of the Saturn rings. Then as we looked closer and saw the short streaks indicative of stars and a long exposure image, we realized we were seeing for the first time a wide-angle image of the Uranus rings at very high phase angle, the only successful one of its kind during the Uranus encounter."

--Ellis D. Miner: Planetary Scientist (Retired), Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Last Update: 7 Mar 2012 (AMB)

Credit: NASA Planetary Photojournal

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Last Updated: 7 Mar 2012