Hubble and Keck Image Uranus’ Rings Edge On

Ever since I wrote Beyond Jupiter: The Story of Planetary Astronomer Heidi Hammel in the “Women’s Adventures in Science” series for middle graders, I have been following Heidi’s work.

This year is particularly interesting for her as an expert on the ice giant planets. Uranus is approaching its once-in-42-Earth-years equinox, which is leading to a number of interesting opportunities for observation, including the first-ever chance for people to see its rings edge-on.

At the same time that the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was imaging the rings edge-on, Heidi and other astronomers were studying the rings from the Keck telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. They discovered that the rings had changed significantly in the 20 years since the Voyager spacecraft visited the planet. The rings were first discovered 30 years ago.

You can learn about this and Heidi’s other recent work at my web site.

You can find HST images and read more about this study of Uranus and its system of rings and moons at the HST news pages.