back to article Uranus strikes a pose for Hubble's camera

Hubble has snapped a gorgeous shot of the rings of Uranus*. I can see rings around Uranus. Credit: NASA/Hubble I can see rings around Uranus. Credit: NASA/Hubble The picture is extremely rare because the rings happen to be tilted perfectly edge on to Earth, an alignment that happens just twice every 894 years as the planet …


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  1. Stuart Rogers

    An oddball corrects an oddball comment...

    "The planet is a bit of an oddball because it is orbiting the Sun on its side, with its axis almost parallel to the path it takes around our star."

    Like all the other planets, barring the odd precessional wobble, it's spin axis maintains its orientation as it orbits, so its axis is only parallel to the orbital path twice per orbit.

  2. Craig Leeds

    Well Done

    You have out done yourselfs with that one!

    Thanks for a great giggle to start the weekend.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ooo, ahh, pretty... feel somewhat celetial today...


  4. Stuart Levy

    894 years -> 84

    Thanks for covering this kind of thing.

    Just wanted to note that the "only twice in 894 years" comment must be a typo -- Uranus' orbital period is about 84 years. (So we must see its rings edge-on, if we know to look for them, about every 42 years. Neat.)

  5. Steven Moore

    Stuart, meet Stuart...


    "Just wanted to note that the "only twice in 894 years" comment must be a typo..."

    No typo.

    Your thinking might be correct if the Earth was fixed relative to Uranus, but the Earth moves, too.

    Stuart can verify this, I'm sure.

  6. Jason Harvey

    on edge

    all this talk about methane on Uranus seems a bit edgy to me.

    *gets coat on the way out*

  7. David Harper

    A pedant corrects an oddball

    May I leap to the defence of the splendid Ms Sherriff, and observe that "its axis almost parallel to the path it takes around our star" is simply one way of saying that the polar axis of Uranus is almost parallel to the plane of its orbit, due to its large obliquity.

    In fact, its obliquity is about 98 degrees, which means that Uranus also rotates "backwards" on its axis compared to, say, the Earth.

    Are we all happy now?

  8. Jon

    Can I just have my two penneth worth??

    While you're all getting so pedantic about information that is freely available in most childrens books about the solar system and thinking how clever you are for knowing this information, you've missed the point! (I know I'm gonna get flamed for this, but I don't care!)

    This artical was nothing more than an excuse to write a sentence that included "rings aroung uranus" and "methane" and stem some jokes from that in the comment section. It's crying out for the jesters to come up with something funny but all we can say is that the thing's on its side and spinning backwards.. My Nan could do better than that, and she's dead!

    Come on, let's get some jokes in here about piles or something! Afterall, it's a really pretty picture of Uranus that the HST took.. and there we all were thinking it was pointed out to space!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Oh, I get it. Good one.

  10. LaeMi Qian


    Commonly pronounced uyr-anis, I have also heard an attempt to re-pronounce it (presumably to remove the posterial imagery) urine-ous -- which is probably WORSE!!

    I have once heard a pronunciation that had no English-language issues, but I can't for the life of me recall what or who (though it may have been Carl Sagan).

    Oh, and where is aManFromMars when things get topical?

  11. Jon Axtell

    42 years not 894

    No, it is every 42 years when we on Earth can see Uranus' rings edge on.


  12. Jon

    Jon Jon Jon...

    You haven't been listening now have you.. Get with the program now and start making silly jokes and stop being so precious about when these rings will next be visible like this! Urs or Mine, it's still got rings around it (although I think urs are substantially bigger than mine!) and the picture is just so very pretty! A bit spoiled by the blue blob in the middle.. What's that? The methane coming from Uranus?

    Anyhow if we're going to start with this quoting business then the web page I found says that the next time we're going to see this is on 23rd October 2453 at 13:16:24 from Vladivostok.. Take a look for your self! :-P

    Personally, whether it's going to be in 2049, 2453 or even 2901, I doubt I'll be in a position to care whether I can see the rings, but I'll probably still enjoy making jokes about Uranus in 2049 if you're so retentive as to say "I told you so!" :-)

  13. tim chubb

    being pedantic about uranus is just anal

    Hubble Penetration : The Rings Of Uranus

    Uranus Stung for close up pictures of ring

    Uranus is more full of methane than a cow

    Paps Snap Bent Over Planets Ring

    Uranus Trumps Britney and Flashes Ring

    Ring of Desire : hilton bottles uranus's upper atmosphere, launches new fragrance

    think that will do for now......

  14. Nick Denny

    To quote Futurama...

    Professor: "I'm sorry, Fry, but astronomers renamed Uranus in 2620 to end that stupid joke once and for all."

    Fry: "Oh. What's it called now?"

    Professor: "Urectum."

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    amanfrommars is busy smoking his crack pipe

    ... foo

    well smoking something i hope otherwise hes just tory propaganda as to how and why care in community doesnt work.

    [would vote if 'none of the above was an option']

  16. Tawakalna

    stop being silly.. *everyone* knows, this planet is called *Bumhole* (pron. bum-ho-ley) although astronomers were debating whether it should be called *Ringpeace* or *Xphincter.*

  17. fluffy

    A better pronunciation

    How about "ER-ah-nees"? That is probably closer to the original Greek pronunciation anyway.

  18. Jon

    Hooray, I can use google..

    At the risk of getting all anal about this(!), according to this web site:

    the Greek god is pronounced Ur-a-Nus, which from what I can work out, is as close to the evocative pronounciation as I can imagine, however I have no Greek preople in the viscinity to ask, so I'm off to get a kebab to see it I can gather any corroborrating evidence!

    Anyhow, no matter how it's pronounced in other parts of the world, I like the British way, if only because it brings a silly schoolby grin accross my face every time!

    My vote goes to the Futurama reference above, despite the fact that I haven't got the slightest clue what the reference made regarding amanfrommars and crack pipes is referring to..

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    42 years..

    Although it has already been pointed out that it is wrong, this amused me anyway:

    "The picture is extremely rare because the rings happen to be tilted perfectly edge on to Earth, an alignment that happens just twice every 894 years as the planet orbits the sun.

    NASA points out that the last time the rings were aligned like this, no one actually knew the planet's rings existed."

    Presumably because no one actually knew the PLANET existed 447 years ago (as you said, only since 1781)

  20. Stephen B Streater

    More useless info

    The axis of rotation of the the planets varies relative to the axis of rotation round the sun (currently 23.5° - If Earth didn't have such a large moon, we'd have much bigger variations here and we'd be toast.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    let there be...

    "And G-d said, Pull my finger: and there was Uranus."

    The part that amazed me most was realizing G-d's farts are blue. That's a cool party trick.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But why say....

    "an alignment that happens just twice every 894 years" and not "once every 447" which is still an impressively big number.

    And could an expert (no, a real expert, thanks) clear up the debate whether this alignment is once every 447 years or once every 42 years?

    And remember folks, the alignment of the rings as seen from Earth does not necessarily align with the planet's orbit.

  23. Matt

    The years thingy...

    copy/cut -> paste -> read -> enuff said

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And more importantly...

    4'47' is a Star Trek reference (If anyone doesn't get this [and you really should]... well, just google it. If you can't google it, WTF are you doing reading this website?)

  25. Ben XO

    why twice every 894 and not once every 447?

    erm, if you think about it, it should be obvious!

    Uranus goes round the sun, so there will be two times at which it's aligned edge on with the sun (once on each side). But Earth goes around the sun too, so those two points at which earth sees uranus edge on, again once on each side, will vary with an uneven period between them, although definitely twice within a longer period. of 894 years. apparently.

    And what about all those times when it's edge on but the sun's in the way?

  26. Peter Mellor

    Silly jokes about Uranus

    Sir Patrick Moore (famous popularizer of astronomy and TV personality, for non-UK readers) was the first to get get tired of the old joke, and started calling the planet "YOO-run-us" on his TV programme "The Sky at Night". (The first syllable is emphasised, not the second, and the last two syllables are very short, with the vowel in the second syllable hardly pronounced at all.)

    His spoilsport attitude was picked up by the comedy puppet programme "Spitting Image", who announced the discovery of a new moon of Jupiter by an Italian astronomer, who had named it "Bumhole" but (being Italian) insisted that it be pronounced "Byoom-OLE-ay".

    I can't remember when this was, but Spitting Image ended its last run quite a few years ago.

    Many years prior to that, "Private Eye" (again for non-UK readers, a satirical magazine which carries a regular feature on amusing misprints in the press) reprinted a facsimile of a genuine astrological column from a certain daily newspaper in which the prediction for one star sign read something like: "The presence of Uranus will add a certain unexpected excitement to your activities tonight."

  27. A. Merkin

    Britney Angle?

    Where's the Paris Hilton angle? Does She have an anus ring too?

    And whatever happened to Britney? Was she "demoted" like Pluto?

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aha.... Thanks Matt..

    Ok, so now it's all nice and clear, according to Nasa (who are American, who are notoriously accurate with their calculations.. Ask anyone standing in the viscinity of an American tank in Iraq!) the orbit of Uranus is 84 years, so we should see the rings edge on every 42 years or so.. Although if we happen to be o the wrong side of the sun when the rings happen to be perpendicular to the earths orbit, we're stuffed.. Or maybe this was taken into account when someone calculated 894 years??

    Or is it all a myth and existance only is real because of my conciousness? Duh now I'm confused! Arrrggghhh my brain hurts! Is my brain real? Mother!!!

  29. b166er

    Astronomical bill as

    iPhone rings Uranus

    Right, HCD

  30. Philip Nicholls Silver badge

    How does the World work?

    Erudite and articulate individuals can barely agree on anything Up There. How on Earth can we fix anything down here? To put it another way, how does the World work at all?


    (Like Hell I will)

    (Liverpool to win 2-0)

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