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The Dark Rings and Arcs Around Neptune
Neptune has rings, but its rings are different from Saturn's rings. Neptune's rings are hard to see from Earth because they are much darker. Saturn's rings are bright.
Neptune's rings may be rocks and dust, which don't reflect much light. Saturn's rings are ice, which reflects light.
Scientists had suspected the presence of rings around Neptune before the arrival there of Voyager 2. In fact, several observations by telescope from Earth had suggested there were irregular arcs, or strands of partial rings, orbiting the planet.
Voyager photographs revealed that, actually, five rings surround Neptune. There are two bright, narrow rings and three faint, fuzzy sheets of orbiting material.
Some sections of the bright rings have significantly higher densities than others. It was those higher-density arcs that had been detected by Earth telescopes before Voyager.
The bright rings are roughly 33,000 miles and 39,000 miles out from Neptune. One broad ring or sheet of material is located at 25,000 miles. Another is in a zone between the bright rings. A third extended sheet seems to fill the space between the planet and the inner broad ring.
The planet was visited once by Voyager 2, an unmanned robot probe from Earth, which flew within 3,100 miles of Neptune in 1989.
Should we go back for another look? »
NASA Solar System Exploration - Neptune »
Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO) proposed to fly in 2015 »
Neptune interplanetary probe proposed to fly in 2015 »
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