This image,captured by the NASA Hubble Space Telescope, reveals a white dot near the center of Uranus’ blue-green disk.That white dot is the icy moon Ariel, casting a shadow onto the cloud tops of Uranus.Imagine, if you will, what this looks like from Uranus’ perspective. It must seem like a solar eclipse, watching as Ariel’s shadow races across Uranus’s cloud tops and blocks out the sun for a brief moment.Though such transits by moons across their parents’ disks are commonplace for some planets, such as Jupiter, they are rare for Uranus due to the particular way its moons orbit the planet.
Uranus is remarkable in that its spin axis lies nearly in its orbital plane. It is almost as if Uranus is tipped over on its side. The moons of Uranus orbit above the equator, meaning that they only align edge-on to the sun every 42 years. This makes this type of alignment even more special and rare.This composite image was created from images at three wavelengths in near infrared light obtained with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys on July 26, 2006 and it truly captures something remarkable. This image gives us an incredible look into a world we never would have seen otherwise and allows us to marvel at this beautiful sight from a far away perspective.
As we gaze upon this incredible alignment, let us take a moment to reflect on the beauty in all of the universes we inhabit and how small and insignificant we really are. We are lucky enough to get a glimpse into something so special due to advancements in technology and science and for that we should be grateful.