Uranus ring occultation observations: 1977-2006
The Uranian rings were discovered serendipitously on 10 March 1977 during a stellar occultation (Elliot et al., 1977a; Millis et al., 1977), and a rich set of subsequent Earth-based occultations revealed that these narrow and sharp-edged rings were eccentric and inclined, precessing under the gravitational influence of the oblate central planet. Considerable progress has been made in understanding the observed characteristics of narrow rings and sharp edges (Nicholson et al., 2018) and their associated dynamics (Longaretti, 2018), but ever since their discovery, the Uranian rings have posed dynamical puzzles that resist simple explanations. The observational basis to address these questions for the Uranus system rests largely on occultation measurements of the narrow rings spanning nearly 30 years, beginning in 1977 and concluding most recently in 2006. Nearly all of these occultation data sets are available in digital form on NASA's Planetary Data System (PDS) Ring-Moon Systems node, but many of them have not been previously published or described in detail. This paper serves as a guide to the PDS archive and provides essential information about the observations and the methods used to determine the ring widths, mean optical depths, and occultation event times from individual occultation profiles. Additional detail is provided in the Supplementary Online Material accompanying this publication. In a companion paper (French et al., 2023b), we make use of these observations to determine the Uranus ring orbits, pole direction, and gravity field, and the orbital characteristics and masses of three small Uranian moons - Cressida, Ophelia, and Cordelia - from their forced normal modes on the rings.
- Pub Date:
- May 2023
- Earth Science