As seen from Earth, the rings of Uranus are now precisely edge on. It's the first time this alignment has occurred since Uranus' rings—now known to number 13—were discovered in 1977, and the event is providing an unprecedented view of the planet's small, inner rings.
Twice in every 84-year orbit of Uranus, the tilted plane of its rings lines up with the center of the solar system.
In the edge-on configuration, the bright outer rings, which ordinarily dominate the view of Uranus from Earth, grow fainter because their relatively large dust particles obscure one another. Meanwhile, the normally dim inner rings brighten as their finer dust appears to merge into a thin band.
Near-infrared images taken by the Keck II telescope atop Hawaii's Mauna