- Webb captures ‘clearest’ view of Neptune’s rings in more than 30 years
- It’s not that blue because it was shot in the near-infrared range
- In the enlarged image, its large moon Triton looks almost like a star
The James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) has captured a stunning image that shows Neptune “in a whole new light.”
When people think of ringed planets in our solar system, Neptune may not be at the top of their list, but it’s actually Have Several faint rings.inside new picture Photographed by Webb, its stunning ring can be clearly seen, looking rather “ghostly” in the clearest view in decades.
“Hey Neptune. Did you call?” Webb’s Twitter account noted. “Webb’s latest images are the clearest observations of Neptune’s rings in more than 30 years, and the first time we’ve seen them in infrared light.”
In another image, a side-by-side comparison of images taken by 1989 Voyager 2the first spacecraft ever to observe the planet and the only one to actually visit it, most recently the Hubble Space Telescope in 2021, and new images from Webb.
One can see how different Neptune looks, the Voyager 2 and Hubble images look very blue, but Webb’s images look very ethereal. As NASA explains, this is because the images were captured by its Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) instrument, which observes them at near-infrared wavelengths.
“In fact, methane gas absorbs red and infrared light so strongly that Earth is very dark at these near-infrared wavelengths unless high-altitude clouds are present,” the agency noted.
The zoomed out image also provides another stunning view, as it shows 7 of Neptune’s 14 moons, all named after the sea gods and nymphs in Greek mythology. In the image, Galatea, Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Proteus and Larissa appear as small dots around the Earth. But its giant moon, Triton, is so bright it almost looks like a star.
Neptune was discovered in 1846, but we still haven’t explored it like the other planets in our solar system. It is also the only planet in the solar system that cannot be seen with the naked eye from Earth.
According to NASA, the new images show features of the ice giant “in a whole new light,” revealing previously observed features and others never before seen.
“The vortex previously known to the South Pole was evident to Webb, but Webb revealed, for the first time, a continuous high-latitude cloud band around it,” the agency said.
This adds to the incredible science Webb has provided since it began operations. For example, only recently has it captured stunning images of the Orion Nebula and even observed sand clouds on brown dwarfs.