May 29, 2023

Dubai Week

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James Webb takes his first image of the ice giant Uranus!

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has shared its first look at Uranus, revealing invisible glowing rings around the ice giant and its 27 moons.

The $10 billion telescope captured 11 of the planet’s 13 rings in the new image, which are so bright they appear to blend into one bright ring.

Astronomers were also dazzled by the telescope’s power, when it picked up two faint dusty rings that weren’t discovered until the 1986 Voyager 2 flyby.

The main rings are composed of rock glaciers several feet across, while the other rings are composed mainly of glaciers covered by rock. The rings are thin, narrow and dark compared to other planets like Saturn.

James Webb also captured many of Uranus’ 27 known moons, most of which are too small and faint to be seen here, but six bright moons were identified in the wide-view image shown for just 12 minutes.

Uranus is a bluish shade caused by thick fog in its atmosphere.

The researchers, led by the University of Oxford, named this layer “aerosol-2”, which they said appears white in visible wavelengths.

James Webb made the image possible with the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam), which captures light in the near-infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, and brings distant galaxies into sharp focus in the new image.

The European Space Agency (ESA) shared in a statement: “When Voyager 2 looked at Uranus, its camera showed a nearly featureless blue-green sphere at visible wavelengths. With infrared wavelengths and additional sensitivity from (James Webb), it shows just how dynamic Uranus’ atmosphere really is.

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NASA scientists recently announced an effort to push space agencies to send probes to Uranus and Neptune in the 2030s.

Little is known about the formation of the two blue planets, with Voyager 2 flying in the 1980s as the only spacecraft to visit them.