NASA jokes ‘Uranus has never looked better’ with new telescope image

  • london
  • April 6, 2023
  • Comments Off on NASA jokes ‘Uranus has never looked better’ with new telescope image
NASA jokes ‘Uranus has never looked better’ with new telescope image thumbnail

Uranus has never looked better” Nasa has joked, as it released a new telescope image that shows the planet in more detail than ever before.

The stunning image of the ice giant has been captured by the US space agency’s James Webb Space Telescope.

The picture features dramatic rings, and picks out bright features in the planet’s atmosphere.

The faint dusty rings have only ever been imaged by two other facilities: the Voyager 2 spacecraft as it flew past the planet in 1986, and the Keck Observatory with advanced adaptive optics.

But Nasa said in a tweet on Thursday Uranus has “never [been pictured] as clearly as Webb’s first glimpse at this ice giant”.

Nasa explained: “This infrared image from Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) combines data from two filters at 1.4 and 3.0 microns, which are shown here in blue and range, respectively. The planet displays a blue hue in the resulting representative-colour image.

“When Voyager 2 looked at Uranus, its camera showed an almost featureless blue-green ball in visible wavelengths. With the infrared wavelengths and extra sensitivity of Webb we see more detail, showing how dynamic the atmosphere of Uranus really is.

“On the right side of the planet there’s an area of brightening at the pole facing the Sun, known as a polar cap.

“This polar cap is unique to Uranus – it seems to appear when the pole enters direct sunlight in the summer and vanish in the fall; these Webb data will help scientists understand the currently mysterious mechanism.

“Webb revealed a surprising aspect of the polar cap: a subtle enhanced brightening at the center of the cap.

“The sensitivity and longer wavelengths of Webb’s NIRCam may be why we can see this enhanced Uranus polar feature when it has not been seen as clearly with other powerful telescopes like the Hubble Space Telescope and Keck Observatory.”