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Uranus Captured by JWST Showing Beauty of Our Solar System

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Over the course of 2023, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has not failed to deliver on its promise of broadening our scope of universal understanding.  Through it, we have discovered Earth-like exoplanets, water plumes on Enceladus, penetrated through cosmic dust to photograph features like the ‘Pillars of Creation', and more.  Now, to close out the year, JWST has given us some of our most detailed looks yet at the 3rd largest planet in our Solar system and 7th from the Sun – Uranus and various of its 27 moons.

Capturing Uranus

Uranus is a unique and captivating ice giant that is primarily composed of heavier elements such as water, ammonia, and methane ices, blended with rocky material.  While believed to be inhospitable to life, this composition results in the striking blue-green hue associated with the planet.  More specifically, this appearance results from methane in its atmosphere absorbing red light and reflecting blue-green light, which gives Uranus its serene and tranquil appearance when viewed from a distance.

Source: www.nasa.gov/missions/webb/nasas-webb-rings-in-holidays-with-ringed-planet-uranus/

This image is intriguing as it begins to show new characteristics of the planet that have not previously been revealed.  In a recent release of the image, the following is stated, with the discussed image taken by Voyager 2 found below.

“In visible wavelengths as seen by Voyager 2 in the 1980s, Uranus appeared as a placid, solid blue ball. In infrared wavelengths, Webb is revealing a strange and dynamic ice world filled with exciting atmospheric features.”

Source: images.nasa.gov/details/PIA18182

Uranus has a diameter of approximately 50,724 kilometers and an extreme axial tilt of about 98 degrees, resulting in some fascinating characteristics.  Its tilt means that the planet rotates almost on its side, leading to extraordinary seasonal changes where each pole experiences 42 years of continuous sunlight followed by 42 years of darkness.

The planet is also known for its subtle ring system, which was discovered in 1977.  These are comprised of 13 distinct rings made primarily of frozen water and darker materials.  While less prominent than those of Saturn, these rings have long captivated human curiosity, building on the beauty of the planet long associated with its calm, pale blue color.  Combined with the enigmatic nature of its tilted axis and ring system, Uranus is widely viewed as a spectacle of natural beauty and a lingering mystery in the distant reaches of our solar system.

A Look at Its Moons

Orbiting the planet of Uranus is a diverse collection of 27 known moons – each with its own unique characteristics and history.  The five major moons – Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, and Oberon – are of particular interest due to their distinct geologies and the mysteries they hold (each of which is visible in the provided image below, along with Puck).

Miranda, the smallest of these, is known for its extreme topographical features that see it boast vast canyons and ice cliffs.  Meanwhile, Ariel and Umbriel have wildly different surfaces; Ariel has a relatively young, bright terrain, and Umbriel has an older, darker surface. Titania and Oberon, the largest moons, are believed to have a mixture of craters, canyons, and possible ice volcanoes.

Annotated wide-field compass image of Uranus with some of its 27 moons and a few prominent stars (with characteristic diffraction spikes) labelled.<br />NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

Source: www.nasa.gov/missions/webb/nasas-webb-rings-in-holidays-with-ringed-planet-uranus/

Collectively, these moons offer a diverse glimpse into one of the many aspects that makes Uranus special.  With the JWST, they should continue to be a subject of intrigue and study for years to come.

Importance of the JWST

When it launched, the JWST represented a monumental leap in astronomical research and technology.  As the most powerful space telescope ever built, it was designed to observe the universe in unprecedented detail, far surpassing the capabilities of its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.  This groundbreaking observatory is expected to revolutionize our understanding of the cosmos, opening new frontiers in our quest to understand the origins and evolution of the universe.

Part of what has made the JWST a success it the approach taken towards its construction and continued operations, which is a joint effort among various agencies and governments, including contributions from NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

What Comes Next?

While the JWST may still represent humankinds best, this has not stopped us from dreaming of what will come next.  In fact, plans for future space observatories are already underway, which should herald the next chapter in space exploration and astrophysical research in the coming years.

Notable among these future projects is the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2027.  It aims to conduct a sky survey to estimate the number of habitable exoplanets in the universe​.

Another ambitious project is the Habitable Worlds Observatory (HWO), which is expected to focus on studying exoplanets, stars, galaxies, and other celestial objects, with an emphasis on searching for life beyond Earth.  If this project comes to fruition, it should employ advanced technologies for deep space observation, including the potential use of coronagraphs and starshades for analyzing exoplanet atmospheres and blocking the glare from their parent stars – each of which is technologies crucial for identifying biosignatures and gases indicative of life​.

These upcoming telescopes will extend the legacy of JWST, pushing the boundaries of our understanding of the universe and continuing the search for life beyond our solar system.


Top Aerospace Companies

The JWST is an amazing feat of engineering that is a testament to what humans are capable of.  For investors interested in the types of companies responsible for its construction or boasting a heavy presence in the Aerospace sector, consider those below.

*Figures provided below were accurate at the time of writing and are subject to change.  Any potential investor should verify metrics*

1.  Northrop Grumman Corporation

finviz dynamic chart for  NOC

MarketcapForward P/E 1 Yr.Earnings Per Share (EPS)
69,680,297,69820.20$30.48

Northrop Grumman is a prominent American aerospace and defense technology company that plays a critical role in space exploration and satellite technology.  The company's legacy in space dates back to the Lunar Module, which landed astronauts on the Moon during the Apollo missions.  Northrop Grumman is known for its contribution to the development and construction of the James Webb Space Telescope, serving as the prime contractor.  The company also provides vital support for NASA's Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the Moon, and is actively involved in manufacturing spacecraft and components for satellite systems, both for governmental and commercial uses.  Its expertise spans from satellite servicing and space logistics to innovative propulsion systems, playing a significant role in shaping the future of space exploration and technology.

2. Lockheed Martin Corporation

finviz dynamic chart for  LMT

MarketcapForward P/E 1 Yr.Earnings Per Share (EPS)
111,716,370,37716.47$27.37

Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company with significant contributions to space exploration and satellite technology.  It has been involved in various NASA missions, including building the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, designed for deep space exploration and slated to play a critical role in the Artemis program for lunar exploration.  Lockheed Martin's expertise extends to Mars exploration, with involvement in the construction of several Mars rovers and landers.  Additionally, it is a major player in satellite technology, developing numerous military, scientific, and commercial satellites. Its focus on innovation in space technology encompasses areas such as human spaceflight, planetary exploration, satellite communications, and missile defense – making it a formidable presence in the space sector.

3. Boeing Company

finviz dynamic chart for  BA

MarketcapForward P/E 1 Yr.Earnings Per Share (EPS)
158,056,237,984-43.82$-4.70

Boeing, one of the world's largest aerospace companies, has also been a key player in space exploration for decades.  The company has a rich history in space travel, including developing the first stage of the Saturn V rocket that powered the Apollo Moon landings.  Boeing is heavily involved in the International Space Station (ISS), both in its construction and ongoing operations, and is one of the key contractors developing commercial crew spacecraft for NASA's Commercial Crew Program.  Its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is designed to transport astronauts to and from the ISS.  Boeing is also involved in the Space Launch System, NASA’s next-generation heavy-lift rocket, designed for deep space exploration missions.  Its extensive space systems and technologies portfolio underscores Boeing's commitment to advancing human spaceflight and exploration.