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Webb snaps stunningly detailed image of Uranus

Published Dec 19th, 2023 2:07PM EST
James webb photo of Uranus

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NASA and the ESA’s James Webb space telescope has captured a captivating view of Uranus and its moons to help ring in the holiday season. The new photos showcase the ringed planet in exquisite detail, including beautiful images of the rings that surround the blue planet.

The ice giant is best known because of the way it spins on its side, causing it to look much different than any of the other ringed planets in our solar system. The image doesn’t just include the placid, blue display that we normally see when we look at Uranus. Instead, it showcases all of the planet’s rings, including the elusive Zeta ring.

Webb’s infrared instruments are what make the rings so visible in these photos of Uranus, as they usually are invisible when viewed in the visible wavelength. Perhaps one of the most striking things about the image, though, is the bright, white polar cap that is visible pointing towards Webb. It’s also possible to see several bright storms near the southern border of the polar cap, giving us a full glimpse of the planet’s volatile nature.

James webb photo of Uranus and its Moons.
From NASA: This image of Uranus, captured by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), shows compass arrows, scale bar, and color key for reference. The north and east compass arrows show the orientation of the image on the sky. Image source: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

Despite being such an interesting planet, Uranus is actually very under-explored, and many governments and space agencies have called for probes to be sent to Uranus, though no missions are underway just yet. While we can’t learn more data specifically about the planet with its own missions, Webb’s image of Uranus does give us a good look at the planet and its ringed systems.

Further, the Webb photos of Uranus showcase just how powerful the telescope is, and how it can be utilized to study planets closer to us, while also helping us learn more about the planets beyond our solar system. And the data captured in this image will be extremely helpful in planning future missions to Uranus, where scientists hope to learn even more about the ice giant.

For now, though, you can check out the full images that Webb captured of Uranus, including several widefield shots that showcase the planet and the space surrounding it.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.