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Ringing in the Holidays

An image with a black background. The planet Uranus is a glowing orb near the center surrounded by rings. The planet appears blue with a large, white patch taking up the right half. The patch is whitest at the center, then fades into blue at it expands from right to left. A thin outline of Uranus is also white. Around the planet is a system of nested rings. There are faint orange and off-white smudges, some oval, some circular, that are background galaxies scattered throughout the image. Several bright blue point sources closer to Uranus are the planet’s moons. There is also a bright star at the left of the field, with 8 diffraction spikes.

The ice giant Uranus and its rings steal the show in this Dec. 18, 2023, image from the James Webb Space Telescope. The telescope captured new images of Uranus, revealing detailed features of the planet’s rings and seasonal north polar cap, as well as bright storms near and below the southern border of the cap.

This Webb image also shows 14 of the planet’s 27 moons: Oberon, Titania, Umbriel, Juliet, Perdita, Rosalind, Puck, Belinda, Desdemona, Cressida, Ariel, Miranda, Bianca, and Portia. Webb’s extreme sensitivity also picks up a smattering of background galaxies—most appear as orange smudges, and there are two larger, fuzzy white galaxies to the right of the planet in this field of view.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI