- NASA has just released new images of Uranus, the seventh planet in our solar system.
- Captured by JWST, the images show incredible detail of the planet and its surrounding rings and moons.
- The researchers believe follow-up imagery with the telescope will provide even more detail in the near future.
JWST did it again. Recently, the team behind the James Webb Telescope released their new images of Uranus, the seventh planet from our Sun. And they are superb.
Uranus has been an oddball for much longer than we’re looking at. Most notably, the multi-ringed ice giant is the only planet to turn sideways, almost perpendicular to its orbit. The photo above is not just turned sideways, the rings are actually pointing in that direction.
The planet also has a number of other interesting features, including a transient polar cap that appears to appear in summer and disappear in winter. We don’t yet know what causes this area to brighten and darken the way it does, but the researchers hope the new data Webb has gathered with these images will provide some insight into the phenomenon.
Additionally, JWST has given us incredibly clear insight into 11 of Uranus’ 13s. rings, whose brightness varies so much from one ring to another that it is often difficult to distinguish them from each other. Getting 11 full screens upfront is impressive, and the researchers believe future Webb imaging will reveal the other two in no time.
And we can’t look past the collection of moons either. Uranus is believed to have 27 moons, and we can see the brightest six in this image above. But while those numbers sound like an unimpressive fraction, it’s important to remember that this photo was taken nearly two billion miles away with just a 12-minute exposure and two filters. Scientists are confident they can rely on future observations.
There has actually been a resurgence of interest in Uranus recently. Last year we saw the release of the 2022 Decadal Survey of Planetary Science and Astrobiology, also known simply as the the decade— which is a ten-year report written by scientific delegates to help guide funding in the field for the next ten years.
And one of the chosen targets in the Decade for close study over the next decade was Uranus and its system of moons. As a result, there are now plans to send a flagship mission called Uranus Orbiter and Probe to the planet in the near future to study Uranus and its satellites.
Until we can actually bring a craft into the planet’s vicinity, these images appear to be a good start for future investigations of Uranus. Long live JWST.
Deputy News Editor
Jackie is a writer and editor from Pennsylvania. She particularly enjoys writing about space and physics, and enjoys sharing the weird wonders of the universe with anyone who wants to listen. She is watched in her home office by her two cats.