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This false-color Voyager picture of Uranus shows a discrete cloud seen as a bright streak near the planet's limb. The picture is a highly processed composite of three images obtained Jan. 14, 1986, when the spacecraft was 12.9 million kilometers (8.0 million miles) from the planet.
The cloud visible here is the most prominent feature seen in a series of Voyager images designed to track atmospheric motions. (The occasional donut-shaped features, including one at the bottom, are shadows cast by dust in the camera optics; the processing necessary to bring out the faint features on the planet also brings out these camera blemishes.)
Three separate images were shuttered through violet, blue and orange filters. Each color image showed the cloud to a different degree; because they were not exposed at exactly the same time, the images were processed to provide a correction for a good spatial match. In a true-color image, the cloud would be barely discernible; the false color helps bring out additional details. The different colors imply variations in vertical structure, but as yet is not possible to be specific about such differences. One possibility is that the Uranian atmosphere contains smog-like constituents, in which case some color differences may represent differences in how these molecules are distributed.
The Voyager Project is managed for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.