Neptune’s rings are faint and continuous. This Voyager 2 image displays an increased brightness to bring out fainter features. Image via NASA/ JPL.
Neptune’s rings confirmed August 22, 1989
By the late 1980s, astronomers suspected that the outermost major planet in our solar system, Neptune, had rings. After all, Uranus had rings, discovered in 1977. And, watching from Earth in 1984, astronomers could see extra blinks before and after Neptune passed in front of a distant star. But it was NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft that provided photographic proof of the existence of Neptune’s rings on August 22, 1989.
At the time, the spacecraft was a few days out from its closest encounter with the planet on August 25, 1989. As Neptune began looming large in Voyager’s cameras, the spacecraft photographed a faint but continuous ring system encircling the planet. The images of Neptune’s rings confirmed astronomers’ long-held suspicions.
Names for Neptunian rings
Today, Voyager 2 remains the only earthly spacecraft to have encountered Neptune. But since Voyager’s 1989 flyby, the Hubble Space Telescope and Earth-based telescopes have imaged the two brightest rings of Neptune. Astronomers named those two Neptunian rings Adams and Le Verrier. They’re named for John ...