February 15, 2024 at 4:32 am

James Webb Space Telescope Takes A Stunning New Picture Of Uranus And Its Elusive “Zeta Ring”

by Laura Lynott

It’s one of the biggest planets of our solar system and we’ve just got a step closer to learning more about the cold planet Uranus.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has managed to take unparalleled images of the rings surrounding the ice giant.

The spectacular visuals highlight the planet’s inner and outer rings, including what NASA labeled the elusive Zeta ring, a faint ring close to the planet.

The image also captured many of the planet’s 27 known moons, even offering a glimpse of some of the small moons within the rings.

The latest image could even help NASA plan future missions to Uranus, the seventh planet from the Sun.

Source: NASA

What hasn’t been seen clearly before is the Zeta Ring, which is visible in this new image.

Source: NASA

It compares it to an old image taken in 2022 and shows how much more detail there is.

Source: NASA

The observations could even help give an insight into how the meteorological systems of planets its size work, in other parts of the Universe.

The telescope’s image shows Uranus has a seasonal north polar cloud cap, including a bright, white, inner cap and a dark lane in the bottom of the polar cap, toward the lower latitudes.

A number of bright storms are also seen near and below the southern border of the polar cap.  The polar cap seems to become more apparent when the planet’s pole points near the Sun, as it nears solstice and gains more sunlight.

Uranus will reach its next solstice in 2028 and astronomers will observe any potential changes to understand the planet’s weather and atmosphere system.

This video from NASA Space News shows the new image taken with a infrared camera and the challenges the telescope faced in getting the amazing view.

A survey last year carried out by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine identified a Uranus Orbiter and Probe (UOP) as the planetary science community’s leading priority for the next major NASA mission.

Any such mission will explore just how the planet was formed, how it’s changed after it was formed and examine its internal structure, atmosphere, magnetosphere, and ring system and if any moons have or once had subsurface liquid water oceans.

The James Webb image will finally help our world get closer to understanding the majestic Uranus!

If you think that’s impressive, check out this story about a “goldmine” of lithium that was found in the U.S. that could completely change the EV battery game.