Saturday, April 13, 2024

A New Image from NASA’s James Webb Telescope Captures Icy Uranus’s Elusive Rings and Extreme Conditions

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#astronomy #James Webb Space Telescope #NASA #planets #space #stars

A New Image from NASA’s James Webb Telescope Captures Icy Uranus’s Elusive Rings and Extreme Conditions

An image of Uranus captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. It shows a blue planet with a white ice cap, surrounded by numerous rings and some of its moons.

All images courtesy of NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

An ice giant that boasts more than two dozen moons and numerous bright rings, Uranus is one cold, windy, and dramatic cosmic orb. Known as a fluid planet, its mass consists of a dense “icy” combination of water and gases around a rocky core, with a blue-green color due to large amounts of methane. Its days are much shorter than Earth’s—only 17 hours—making it difficult to capture quality images, as storms and other features rotate so quickly. And while Uranus has the distinction of being the first planet discovered using a telescope, it has taken until now to capture its dynamic character in this much detail.

NASA just released an image captured by the powerful James Webb Space Telescope (previously) using its NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera), which reveals an unprecedented glimpse of a seasonal ice cap with bright storms at its base. “Because Uranus spins on its side at a tilt of about 98 degrees, it has the most extreme seasons in the solar system,” NASA says. “For nearly a quarter of each Uranian year, the sun shines over one pole, plunging the other half of the planet into a dark, 21-year-long winter.”

The image also captures 14 of Uranus’s 27 moons, some of which orbit within the rings. Using Webb’s sensitive imaging and a number of filters to glean more precise attributes, we’re even able to see a dim ring named Zeta that often eludes other telescopes.

Learn more about the mission on NASA’s website, and you might also enjoy Webb’s depiction of a dramatic dying star, released a few months ago.

An image of Uranus captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. It shows a blue planet among a field of stars, with a white ice cap, surrounded by numerous rings and some of its moons.

An image of Uranus captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. It shows a blue planet among a field of stars, with a white ice cap, surrounded by numerous rings and some of its moons. Labels on the moons are Oberon, Titania, Umbriel, Perdita, Juliet, Portia, Bianca, Rosalind, Puck, Belinda, Desdemona, Cressida, Miranda, and Ariel.

#astronomy #James Webb Space Telescope #NASA #planets #space #stars

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