Voyager 2 in the Uranian System: Imaging Science Results

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Science  04 Jul 1986:
Vol. 233, Issue 4759, pp. 43-64
DOI: 10.1126/science.233.4759.43


Voyager 2 images of the southern hemisphere of Uranus indicate that submicrometersize haze particles and particles of a methane condensation cloud produce faint patterns in the atmosphere. The alignment of the cloud bands is similar to that of bands on Jupiter and Saturn, but the zonal winds are nearly opposite. At mid-latitudes (-70° to -27°), where winds were measured, the atmosphere rotates faster than the magnetic field; however, the rotation rate of the atmosphere decreases toward the equator, so that the two probably corotate at about -20°. Voyager images confirm the extremely low albedo of the ring particles. High phase angle images reveal on the order of 102 new ringlike features of very low optical depth and relatively high dust abundance interspersed within the main rings, as well as a broad, diffuse, low optical depth ring just inside the main rings system. Nine of the newly discovered small satellites (40 to 165 kilometers in diameter) orbit between the rings and Miranda; the tenth is within the ring system. Two of these small objects may gravitationally confine the e ring. Oberon and Umbriel have heavily cratered surfaces resembling the ancient cratered highlands of Earth's moon, although Umbriel is almost completely covered with uniform dark material, which perhaps indicates some ongoing process. Titania and Ariel show crater populations different from those on Oberon and Umbriel; these were probably generated by collisions with debris confined to their orbits. Titania and Ariel also show many extensional fault systems; Ariel shows strong evidence for the presence of extrusive material. About halfof Miranda's surface is relatively bland, old, cratered terrain. The remainder comprises three large regions of younger terrain, each rectangular to ovoid in plan, that display complex sets of parallel and intersecting scarps and ridges as well as numerous outcrops of bright and dark materials, perhaps suggesting some exotic composition.

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