The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has prepared an interesting image for the upcoming second anniversary of its launch. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), which jointly operate the facility with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), shared the latest photo of the ice planet Uranus. The image, resembling a glowing blue ball rippling in a black ocean, was transferred through infrared filters telescope to pick up wavelengths that future space travelers would not be able to see with the naked eye.
Compared to classic images of Uranus taken by Voyager 2 in the 1980s, the Webb Telescope a much more vivid picture. The instrument’s sensors, which capture light in the infrared spectrum, reveal – as described by the team operating the telescope – “a strange and dynamic icy world full of exciting atmospheric features”.
You can see them in the picture rings surrounding the planetinclusive Zeta rings, the faintest and most diffuse inner ring of Uranus. Its northern polar cloud cap, a white spot near the center, can also be discerned.
The telescope took the picture with the help of four NIRCam filters, which reveal details in the near-infrared spectrum. These include F140M (blue), F210M (cyan), F300M (yellow) and F460M (orange). A photo NASA shared earlier this year showed Uranus in only two filters (blue and orange), resulting in a more primitive-looking view of the ice giant.
Astronomers believe that images from the Webb telescope will help them better understand Uranus, especially its Zeta ring. They also see the images as an aid to identifying the nearly 2,000 documented exoplanets in other solar systems that share features with Uranus.