New study reveals true colors of Uranus and Neptune for the first time 

A new study from the University of Oxford has revealed the true colors of the planets Uranus and Neptune for the first time.

From NASA’s Voyager 2 mission, it is known that Uranus is pale blue-green and Neptune is dark blue. It is the only spacecraft to fly past Uranus and Neptune.

The true colors of Uranus and Neptune are a similar shade of greenish blue
The true colors of Uranus and Neptune are a similar shade of greenish blue. (Image credit: Patrick Irwin/University of Oxford)

However, the new study, led by Professor Patrick Irwin from the University of Oxford’s Department of Physics, revealed that Uranus and Neptune are actually a rather similar shade of greenish blue.

It was not the fault of Voyager 2, as the spacecraft captured the planets Uranus and Neptune in separate colors in the 1980s.

Later, when these separate color images were combined to create composite color images, they were not accurately balanced to achieve a “true” color image. Especially in the case of Neptune, which was made “too blue.”

Professor Irwin said in a statement ‘Although the familiar Voyager 2 images of Uranus were published in a form closer to “true” colour, those of Neptune were, in fact, stretched and enhanced, and therefore made artificially too blue.’

‘Even though the artificially-saturated colour was known at the time amongst planetary scientists – and the images were released with captions explaining it – that distinction had become lost over time. Applying our model to the original data, we have been able to reconstitute the most accurate representation yet of the colour of both Neptune and Uranus.’

In the new study, Professor Irwin and his team have used the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) of the Hubble Space Telescope and the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) of the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope.

In both instruments, each pixel is a continuous spectrum of colours which can determine the true colours Uranus and Neptune.

A research paper has been published on this topic in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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