24 September 2023

Digital Technology Guru

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NASA Enlists Amateur Astronomers to Study Ice Giants Uranus and Neptune

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NASA Enlists Amateur Astronomers to Study Ice Giants Uranus and Neptune

NASA is calling on amateur astronomers to assist in a groundbreaking study of the ice giants Uranus and Neptune. Utilizing its New Horizons spacecraft, originally designed for Pluto exploration, NASA intends to observe the two planets in conjunction with the Hubble Space Telescope. By capturing images of Uranus and Neptune in color from a “behind” perspective, valuable data on their atmospheres can be gleaned.

Though armed with state-of-the-art tools, NASA recognizes the potential of incorporating additional instruments aimed at the ice giants. Principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, Alan Stern, explains that the combination of data collected New Horizons and telescopes on Earth can enhance scientific models and unveil the mysteries hidden within the planets’ atmospheres. Even observations made amateur astronomers with small telescopes as small as 16 inches can play a significant role in this collaborative effort.

NASA plans to publicly release the Hubble images of Uranus and Neptune at the end of September, with the New Horizons images expected to arrive the end of 2023. In order to broaden the scope of this research, amateur observers are encouraged to share their images and accompanying details on social media platforms such as Facebook or X (previously known as Twitter), using the hashtag #NHIceGiants.

While Mars has garnered significant attention from planetary scientists due to its proximity to Earth, more resources are needed to explore the more distant ice giants. Dr. Kathleen Mandt from Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory has stressed the importance of a dedicated probe to study Uranus and Neptune. She envisions such a mission revealing crucial information about the formation, migration, interior structure, atmosphere, magnetosphere, ring system, and potential subsurface liquid water oceans of Uranus.

With only one spacecraft, NASA’s Voyager 2, having previously visited Uranus and Neptune in 1986, this collaborative effort between NASA and amateur astronomers presents an exciting opportunity to shed light on these enigmatic ice giants of our solar system.

Sources: NASA