The Uranus System (NACO/VLT)
August 27, 2007
The rings of Uranus are shown here captured almost exactly edge-on to Earth. This false-colour image was obtained by the NAOS-CONICA infrared camera on ESO's Very Large Telescope at Paranal, Chile. It was taken at 9:00 UT on 16 August 2007, just two hours after Earth had crossed to the lit side of the ring plane. We are peering over the sunlit face of the rings at an opening of only 0.003 degree, an angle so small that the thin rings nearly disappear. At right, the region around the planet has been enhanced to show a thin line, which is sunlight glinting off the ring edges and also reflected by dust clouds embedded within the system. The pictures at left shows the planet and identifies four of its largest moons. One can clearly discern banding in the atmosphere and a bright cloud feature near the planet's south polar collar, on the left side of the image. This is a composite of images taken at infrared wavelengths. The planet is shown in false colour, based on images taken at wavelengths of 1.2 and 1.6 microns. The rings are extracted from an image taken at 2.2 microns, where the planet is darker and therefore the rings are easier to detect. The observations were done by Daphne Stam (TU Delft) and Markus Hartung (ESO, Chile), in close collaboration with Mark Showalter (SETI) and Imke de Pater (UC Berkeley and TU Delft).
Topics: Uranus, Very Large Telescope, Telescopes, Planetary ring, Cerro Paranal, European Southern Observatory, Chile