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This is an image of Uranus' rings.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA

Uranus' Thermosphere

The thermosphere is the other region of the atmosphere (beside the stratosphere) where warming takes place. The thermosphere is the outermost region of the atmosphere, and interacts with the magnetosphere. The temperature is raised by incoming particles from the magnetosphere as well as the sun's ultraviolet radiation. For a picture showing how the temperature changes in this region, click here.

There is no top, or thermopause, to the thermosphere, and Uranus' atmosphere extends to the distance of the rings, a unique feature among the planets. The rings, therefore, experience the kind of drag that some terrestrial communication satellites also undergo. This drag can cause them to slow down so much in orbit that they fall out of orbit and plunge back to the ground. (as did SKYLAB, circa 1980). In spite of this drag, Uranus' rings are perpetually replenished. The ring particles seem to be very much younger than Uranus itself. The source of fresh material for Uranus' rings remains a mystery.


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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA