Uranus, Voyager 2, January 1986

Uranus, Voyager 2, January 1986


Vintage chromogenic print, 20.2 x 25.4 cm

Caption on verso

[Caption] These two pictures of Uranus were compiled from images recorded by Voyager 2 on January 10, 1986, when the NASA spacecraft was 18 million kilometres (11 million miles) from the planet. The images were obtained by Voyager’s narrow-angle camera; the view is toward the planet’s pole of rotation, which lies just left of centre. The picture on the left has been processed to show Uranus as human eyes would see it from the vantage point of the spacecraft. The second picture is an exaggerated false-colour view that reveals details not visible in the true-colour view – including indications of what could be a polar haze of smog-like particles. The true-colour picture was made by combining pictures taken through blue, green and orange filters. The dark shading of the upper right edge of the disk is the terminator, or day-night boundary. The blue-green appearance of Uranus results from methane in the atmosphere; this gas absorbs red wavelengths from the incoming sunlight, leaving the predominant bluish colour seen here. The picture on the right uses false colour and contrast enhancement to bring out subtle details in the polar region of the atmosphere. Images shuttered through different colour filters were added and manipulated by computer, greatly enhancing the low-contrast details in the original images. Ultraviolet, violet and orange filtered images were displayed, respectively, as blue, green and red to produce this false-colour picture. The planet reveals a dark polar hood surrounded by a series of progressively lighter convective bands. The banded structure is real, through exaggerated here. The brownish colour near the centre of the planet could be explained as being caused by a thin haze concentrated over the pole – perhaps the product of chemical reactions powered by ultraviolet light from the Sun. One such reaction produces acetylene from methane – acetylene has been detected on Uranus by an Earth-orbiting spacecraft – and further reactions involving acetylene are known to produce reddish-brown smog-like particles. A similar haze envelopes Saturn’s moon Titan; ground based observations have predicted such a haze in the polar regions of Uranus.

NASA launched the two Voyager spacecraft to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune in the late summer of 1977. Voyager 1's closest approach to Jupiter occurred March 5, 1979. Voyager 2's closest approach was July 9, 1979.

Condition: mint

About the Voyager missions here and watch the probe's distance from Earth increase (and occasionally decrease!) in real time here.


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