Magazine article USA TODAY

Uranus' New Ring Has Scientists Seeing Blue

Magazine article USA TODAY

Uranus' New Ring Has Scientists Seeing Blue

Article excerpt

Blue may be a color that most of us can feel, but the solar system's seventh planet is feeling it, too--in its recently discovered outermost ring, making it just the second known blue ring in the solar system.

Saturn's E ring is the only other known example of a blue planetary ring. The blue rings of Saturn and Uranus are associated with small moons.

Research by the Space Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, indicates that the particles in the blue ring around Uranus likely are produced by impacts on Mab, one of Uranus' smallest moons. Mab is embedded within the blue ring. It is suspected that both rings owe their color to gravitational forces acting on dust in the rings that allow smaller particles to survive while larger ones are recaptured by the moon.

Combining ground-based near-infrared observations from the Keck Telescope in Hawaii and visible-light photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists discovered two faint rings, located well outside of Uranus' main ring system. The outer ring is centered on the orbit of the tiny moon Mab and is blue, while the other, which orbits between the moons Rosalind and Portia, is red. …

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