NASA unveiled stunning new photos of Uranus on Monday, offering a breathtaking look at its luminous rings and one seldom-seen feature.
The icy planet, along with nine of its 27 known moons, a seasonal polar cap, and numerous inner and outer rings, were all photographed by NASA’s powerful James Webb Space Telescope.
The recently released images provide a unique look at the “elusive” Zeta ring, which is the faintest and most diffuse ring closest to the planet. It is displayed in a reddish brown hue.
A brilliant blue hue was captured on several more rings.
Snapshots of atmospheric events on Uranus, including the seasonal north polar cloud cap and multiple storms nearby, were also captured by the powerful Webb telescope.
As Uranus gets closer to the solstice and receives more sunlight, its pole moves toward the sun, enhancing the appearance of its polar cap. The next solstice on the planet occurs in 2028.
According to NASA, because Uranus spins on its side at a tilt of roughly 98 degrees, it experiences the most extreme seasons of any planet in the solar system. One pole experiences sunlight, while the other experiences a long, dark winter that lasts for 21 years.
“With Webb’s unparalleled infrared resolution and sensitivity, astronomers now see Uranus and its unique features with groundbreaking new clarity,” NASA stated. “These details, especially of the close-in Zeta ring, will be invaluable to planning any future missions to Uranus.”
NASA added that the planet and the newly acquired images of it will support research by NASA scientists on nearly two thousand exoplanets of a similar size that have been found in recent decades.
According to the government agency, “This ‘exoplanet in our backyard’ can help astronomers understand how planets of this size work, what their meteorology is like, and how they formed,” This can in turn help us understand our own solar system as a whole by placing it in a larger context.”