Concept

Rings of Neptune

Summary
The rings of Neptune consist primarily of five principal rings. They were first discovered (as "arcs") by simultaneous observations of a stellar occultation on 22 July 1984 by André Brahic's and William B. Hubbard's teams at La Silla Observatory (ESO) and at Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory in Chile. They were eventually imaged in 1989 by the Voyager 2 spacecraft. At their densest, they are comparable to the less dense portions of Saturn's main rings such as the C ring and the Cassini Division, but much of Neptune's ring system is quite tenuous, faint and dusty, more closely resembling the rings of Jupiter. Neptune's rings are named after astronomers who contributed important work on the planet: Galle, Le Verrier, Lassell, Arago, and Adams. Neptune also has a faint unnamed ring coincident with the orbit of the moon Galatea. Three other moons orbit between the rings: Naiad, Thalassa and Despina. The rings of Neptune are made of extremely dark material, likely organic compounds processed by radiation, similar to those found in the rings of Uranus. The proportion of dust in the rings (between 20% and 70%) is high, while their optical depth is low to moderate, at less than 0.1. Uniquely, the Adams ring includes five distinct arcs, named Fraternité, Égalité 1 and 2, Liberté, and Courage. The arcs occupy a narrow range of orbital longitudes and are remarkably stable, having changed only slightly since their initial detection in 1980. How the arcs are stabilized is still under debate. However, their stability is probably related to the resonant interaction between the Adams ring and its inner shepherd moon, Galatea. The first mention of rings around Neptune dates back to 1846 when William Lassell, the discoverer of Neptune's largest moon, Triton, thought he had seen a ring around the planet. However, his claim was never confirmed and it is likely that it was an observational artifact. The first reliable detection of a ring was made in 1968 by stellar occultation, although that result would go unnoticed until 1977 when the rings of Uranus were discovered.
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