The Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 on the Hubble Space Telescope has captured a rare image of the planet Uranus in which the rings of the planet are edge-on to Earth. This image was captured by Hubble on August 14 this year, NASA confirmed.
Uranus rings tilt edge-on to Earth once every 42 years so this rare, but beautiful sight is short-lived. And because the rings were only discovered in 1977, this stunning view captured by Hubble gives scientists and astronomers a chance to look put for more moons that are circling the planet.
The Keck II telescope as well as Hubble have been awaiting this event for years, which finally occurred this year. Imke de Pater of University of California, Berkeley and colleagues have reported the findings of the Keck telescope in Science Express, the online edition of Science magazine.
The researchers report that the micron-sized dust rings surrounding Uranus have changed considerably over the last 21 years when Voyager 2 spacecraft had captured the images of the planet. The researchers used the infrared camera (NIRC2) and adaptive optics on Keck to study the edge-on appearance of Uranus on May 28.
"People tend to think of the rings as unchanging, but our observations show that not to be the case," said de Pater. "There are a lot of forces acting on small dust grains, so it is not that crazy to find that the arrangement of rings has changed."
Then on August 14, Hubble captured images of the rings being edge-on. Heidi B. Hammel of the Space Science Institute and a co-author of the study said that the outermost ring was not seen on IR images. "This ring is very blue, and therefore harder to see in the infrared. We may detect it when the rings are fully edge-on and when we can observe it for several hours," she added.
Last Mod: 25 Ağustos 2007, 09:55
The researchers plan to continue observing the planets in the next few months and collect as much data as possible.