Side-by-side images of Uranus show how NASA's James Webb telescope outclasses Hubble, spotting vivid rings that used to go unseen

A fresh image of Uranus taken by the powerful James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was recently made public by NASA.

With the help of the potent space observatory, which captured 11 of the frozen giant's 13 rings in unparalleled resolution, the images reveal a whole new aspect of the planet.

Images compared side by side once more demonstrate how much more capable JWST is than NASA's other space observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope, for infrared imaging.

According to a press release from NASA on April 6, "The Webb data demonstrates the observatory's unprecedented sensitivity for the faintest dusty rings, which have only ever been imaged by two other facilities: the Voyager 2 spacecraft as it flew past the planet in 1986 and the Keck Observatory with advanced adaptive optics."

Not just the planet was snapped by JWST. The Uranian planetary system, including six of its brightest moons, was also thoroughly examined.

This image was captured by JWST using a single 12-minute exposure. NASA anticipates that by reorienting the telescope toward Uranus, JWST will be able to capture even higher-definition images of our distant friend.

The enigmatic rings of Uranus never cease to amaze

Although this image offers a fresh perspective on the planet, scientists had previously captured images of Uranus' rings.

When it passed by Uranus in 1986, NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft—which is still transmitting data 45 years after it was launched—provided information on the planet's rings.

Two more, fainter rings were discovered by the probe, increasing the total number of known rings encircling the planet to 11.

Only Voyager 2 and the Keck observatory on Earth were able to observe these two smaller rings plainly. Although Hubble was unable to detect these rings, it did discover two additional weak outer rings roughly 20 years ago, increasing the planet's total number of recognized rings to 13.

As previously reported by Insider, Hubble detects ultraviolet, visible, and a small portion of infrared radiation, whereas JWST observes the universe throughout the infrared spectrum.

Due to Webb's significantly bigger mirror, the infrared spectrum of light utilized to obtain these photographs of Uranus yields higher resolution images than Hubble's.

On December 25, 2021, JWST was launched, and since then, it has offered some breathtaking views of the cosmos.

The two dimmer outer rings should be visible to JWST the next time it focuses on Uranus, according to NASA.

Not just the rings of Uranus are attracting interest.

The JWST picture also offers a clear view of Uranus' enigmatic northern cap.

A moon the size of Earth may have smashed Uranus off its orbit thousands of years ago, causing it to tilt around 100 degrees with regard to its orbit around the sun, making it a slightly peculiar planet.

In other words, the planet seems to revolve sideways as it orbits the sun.

The length of Uranus' seasons is a result of the planet's 82-year orbital period around the sun. Every Uranian year, the northern half of the planet experiences a winter that lasts 21 years.

A polar cap that forms on the side facing the sun is a peculiar characteristic that arises every summer in Uranian and attracts the attention of scientists.

NASA stated in the news release that "this polar cap is unique to Uranus" and that "these Webb data will help scientists understand the currently mysterious mechanism." The polar cap appears when the pole is exposed to direct sunlight in the summer and disappears in the fall.