Which planet is this?

Uranus and moons seen by VLT
IMAGE: European Southern Observatory

Although the first name that popped into my head was Saturn - the iconic rings - it is actually a near-infrared image of the planet Uranus. It was taken with the European Southern Observatory's 8.2 metre ANTU telescope - part of the VLT - in November 2002. The methane present in the atmosphere of Uranus actually absorbs this particular wavelength of light, so the planet seems quite dark in comparison to the bright, icy rings which reflect the Sun's light. You can also spot seven of Uranus's moons in the image which are named after Shakespearean characters.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Tuesday 24th May 2005 (17:34 UTC) | Permalink
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