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January 24, 2011 - New Rings for an Old Planet

New Rings for an Old Planet After a nine-year journey of more than 1.8 billion miles, including a couple of swings past Jupiter and Saturn along the way, Voyager 2 became the first—and still only—spacecraft to pay a visit to Uranus, the seventh planet from the Sun. Voyager 2’s historic encounter, which took place twenty-five years ago this week, turned that pale, mysterious gas giant into a more familiar world. It tripled the number of known moons orbiting Uranus (from five to fifteen), confirmed that the atmosphere is composed primarily of hydrogen and helium, returned beautiful images like this of the nine known rings of the planet (which had been discovered telescopically in 1977), and spotted two new rings. Since then, the Hubble Space Telescope has discovered two more Uranian rings.

Image credit: NASA / JPL

Weekly Calendar

January 24-30, 2011

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 24

1978: Cosmos 954 satellite reenters atmosphere over Canada
1985: STS-51C Discovery launched
1986: Voyager 2 flies past Uranus
1992: Magellan begins third mapping cycle of Venus

Moon phase Tuesday 25

Saturn 8° north of Moon

1736: Joseph Lagrange born
1962: NASA authorizes Saturn V rocket
1983: IRAS launched
1994: Clementine spacecraft launched
2004: Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity lands

Moon phase Wednesday 26

Last Quarter Moon 7:57 AM ET

Moon phase Thursday 27

Saturn appears stationary

1967: Apollo 1 astronauts Grissom, White, and Chaffee die in cockpit fire on launch pad during test

Moon phase Friday 28

1611: Johannes Hevelius born
1986: Space Shuttle Challenger explodes, 7 astronauts die

Moon phase Saturday 29

Venus 3° north of Moon

1964: SA-5 launched, first Saturn I Block 2 rocket
1989: Phobos 2 enters orbit around Mars

Moon phase Sunday 30

Ceres in conjunction with Sun

1964: Ranger 6 launched

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.