How Webb changed our understanding of Uranus forever

Most pictures of Uranus in textbooks show it as a bright blue, featureless ball.

But the James Webb Space Telescope, the first new observatory to detect invisible, infrared wavelengths of light, will allow astronomers to get a closer look at the seventh planet from the Sun, a ringed world.

NASA Scientists say Uranus’ rings are captured by only two other cameras. They were specialized by the Voyager 2 spacecraft when it passed in 1986. Later, the Keck Observatory in Hawaii spied on the planet’s ring system with advanced adaptive optics technology. The new one Space Image follows on the heels of the web Photo of Neptune Last year, this also showed occult rings around another ice giant in the solar system.

“JWST is a ring machine,” NASA planetary scientist Stephanie Milam said in a video released by the Museum of Science in Boston. “This is one of the first times we’ve seen the rings of Uranus in a very, very long time. They’re really hard to see, and that’s because they’re made of ice and dust.”

Uranus is also made of “icy” material, water, methane, and ammonia around a small rocky core. is it The only planet in the solar system is tilted(Opens in a new tab) The equator is at a right angle to the Earth’s orbit, so it has extremely harsh seasons. It takes 84 years for Uranus to orbit the Sun, which means it spends a long time in constant sunlight and complete darkness.

Now about 2 billion miles from Earth, the planet is at its north pole in late spring. The new image(Opens in a new tab). The northern summer begins in five years. When Voyager 2 visited Uranus(Opens in a new tab) Many decades ago, it was summer at the South Pole. The South Pole is now out of sight and faces the darkness of space.

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How many rings does Uranus have?

Uranus has 13 known rings, 11 of which are visible in the new image. Some of these rings are so bright for the web that they appear to merge into a larger ring when they are close together. Nine are considered the planet’s main rings, and two are faint dusty rings discovered by Voyager 2. Scientists expect that future Webb images of the planet will reveal other outer rings; Space Telescope Science Institute(Opens in a new tab) in Baltimore.

“JWST is a ring machine.”

These vivid images taken in this solar system show 10 billion dollar space telescopeThe distant universe – its main objective – but also the ability to gather unusual information about celestial bodies closer to home. Scientists believe the Web is ushering in a golden age in our understanding of the cosmos.

Webb discovered that there is a hidden, bright spot at the pole in the Sun, known as Polar cap(Opens in a new tab). This polar cap is unique to Uranus; According to NASA, the pole appears when it enters direct sunlight in the summer and disappears in the fall. The telescope’s new observations will help researchers understand what’s going on and how it works.

Jesse Christiansen, a planetary scientist at NASA, was impressed by the new image of Uranus, but shared side-by-side photos of Saturn and the ice giant on social media to compare the sizes of their ring systems.

Don’t completely dismiss your view of the ringed planets in this solar system, she warned on Twitter last week.

“Saturn is still the Queen of the Rings!” She said.

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