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LOOK: Astronomers Capture The 'Glow' Of Uranus's Rings

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This image was captured using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). The observations on Uranus's rings confirm that it is vastly different from the rings of the other planets in our solar system.   ( Edward Molter and Imke de Pater | UC Berkeley )

The "warm glow" of Uranus reveals quite a bit about its rings. The new images of "the sideways planet" show how different its rings are to the rings of other planets in the solar system.

‘Warm Glow’ Of Uranus’s Rings

The new heat images of Uranus were taken by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, capturing the thermal emissions of the rings around the planet. Using the Very Large Telescope, astronomers were also able to measure the temperature of Uranus’s rings for the first time at 77 Kelvin or -320 degrees Fahrenheit.

Based on their observations, astronomers also confirmed that Uranus’s densest and brightest ring, epsilon, is different from the other rings in the solar system, particularly those of Saturn.

“Saturn’s mainly icy rings are broad, bright and have a range of particle sizes, from micron-sized dust in the innermost D ring, to tens of meters in size in the main rings. The small end is missing in the main rings of Uranus; the brightest ring, epsilon, is composed of golf ball-sized and larger rocks,” said UC Berkeley professor of astronomy Imke de Pater.

Similarly, Jupiter’s and Neptune’s rings are also mostly made up of micron-sized particles.

‘The Sideways Planet’

It was in 1781 that William Herschel discovered Uranus. He initially thought that it was a star or a comet, but two years later it was accepted as a planet and was then named after the Greek god of the sky.

Nicknamed “the sideways planet,” Uranus is four times wider than the Earth, and takes about 84 Earth years to complete a Uranian year or a complete orbit of the sun. Because of Uranus's sideways rotation, its north pole experiences 21 years of nighttime in winter, 21 years of daytime in summer, and 42 years of day and night in the spring and fall.

The planet has 27 known moons and 13 known rings. Apart from the flyby of the spacecraft Voyager 2 in 1986 when its main rings were first noted, there are no other spacecrafts to have orbited or studied the planet from up-close.

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