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Posted on: Aug 24, 2007
A rare image of the ring system of the planet Uranus has been captured by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, using the onboard JPL-built and designed Wide Field Planetary Camera 2.
The view, tilted edge-on to Earth, was photographed on August 14, 2007. Earthbound astronomers only see the rings' edge every 42 years as the planet follows a leisurely 84-year orbit about the sun. However, the last time the rings were tilted edge-on to Earth, astronomers didn't even know they existed.
The fainter outer rings appeared in 2003 Hubble images, but were not noticed there until they were seen in 2005 Hubble images, which prompted astronomers to analyze the previous ones more carefully. Uranus has a total of 13 dusty rings.
In the image, the edge-on rings appear as spikes above and below the planet. The rings cannot be seen running fully across the face of the planet because the bright glare of the planet has been blocked out in the Hubble photo. A small amount of residual glare appears as a fan-shaped image artifact, along with an edge between the exposure for the inner and outer rings.
Uranus is the 7th planet from the sun. Its diameter, without the rings, is about 51,000 kilometers (32,000 miles) at the equator.