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  Geotimes - November 2007 - New views of Uranus’ rings

New views of Uranus’ rings

Thanks to a probing ground-based telescope, researchers have gotten their first good look at the dark side of Uranus — all sophomoric jokes aside — and have found that the alignment of the planet’s rings is changing. In August 2007, the rings were aligned edge-on to Earth for the first time since their discovery in 1977, which allowed Imke de Pater of the University of California at Berkeley and colleagues to photograph the darker side of the rings, as they reported in Science, Sept. 28. The photos revealed that the pattern of dust embedded in the rings has changed quite a bit since the rings were first photographed by the Voyager spacecraft in 1986, and researchers can now see that diffuse dust envelops the whole ring system. Such large-scale changes, de Pater and colleagues say, are more common in the solar system than once thought.

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