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Rings Around Uranus
Hugh Bollinger

Rings Around Uranus

Uranus and its rings in infrared (credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI)

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has now shown all the solar system's giant gas planets have beautiful rings. The latest to join the group is Uranus. According to NASA, the telescope's near-infrared camera (NIRCam) captured the latest image earlier this year revealing stunning views of the planet’s rings. The infrared spectrum show details beyond what visible light can view. Uranus displays a blue hue in this representative color-corrected image, made by combining data gathered by two IR filters which are shown here as blue and orange.

NASA investigators indicate the right side of the planet shows a brightened area that exposes the pole that is facing the Sun. Known as the 'polar cap', this feature is unique to Uranus as it is the only planet in the solar system tilted on its side. A new aspect of the cap revealed by image is a subtle brightening near the north pole of Uranus. At its edge lies, a bright cloud as well as fainter extended features just northward of the cap. A second bright cloud is seen at the planet’s left limb. Such clouds have been observed on Uranus in infrared wavelengths before and are likely connected to major atmospheric storms.

The Webb telescope has been fully operational for less than a year. In that brief time, the instrument is already re-writing textbooks on our solar system and elsewhere that it turns it attention. WHB

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