- Webb captured the “clearest” views of Neptune’s rings in more than 30 years
- It is not so blue because it was taken in the near infrared range
- In the zoomed-out image, its large moon Triton looks almost like a star
The James Webb (Webb) Space Telescope captured a stunning image that shows Neptune “in a whole new light”.
Neptune may not be at the top of people’s lists when they think of the ringed planets in our solar system, but it is there is several faint rings. U new picture taken by Webb, his stunning rings are clearly visible, looking quite “spooky” in the clearest views of them in decades.
“Hey Neptune. Did you ring?” Webb’s Twitter account has been noted. “Webb’s latest image is the clearest view of Neptune’s rings in 30+ years, and our first time seeing them in infrared light.”
In the second picture you can see a side-by-side comparison of the pictures that were taken Voyager 2 in 1989which was the first spacecraft to observe the planet and the only one to actually visit it, the Hubble Space Telescope recently in 2021 and a new image taken by Webb.
You can see how different Neptune looks, with the Voyager 2 and Hubble images looking strikingly blue, but the Webb image looking rather ethereal. As NASA explained, that’s because the images were taken by its Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) instrument, which observed them in near-infrared wavelengths.
“In fact, methane gas absorbs red and infrared light so strongly that the planet is quite dark at these near-infrared wavelengths, except where high-altitude clouds are present,” the agency notes.
Zooming out also provides another stunning view, as it shows seven of Neptune’s 14 moons, all of which are named after sea gods and nymphs in Greek mythology. In the image of Galatea, the Naiads, Thalassa, Despina, Proteus and Larissa appear as small dots surrounding the planet. But its massive moon, Triton, is so bright it almost looks like a star.
Neptune was discovered in 1846, but we still haven’t explored it as much as the other planets in our solar system. It is also the only planet in the solar system that is not visible to the naked eye from Earth.
According to NASA, these new images show the ice giant “in a whole new light,” revealing features that have been seen before and others that have not been seen before.
“The previously known South Pole vortex is evident in Webb’s view, but for the first time Webb has revealed a continuous band of high-latitude clouds surrounding it,” the agency said.
This adds to the incredible science that Webb has provided since its inception. Only recently, for example, he captured stunning images of the Orion Nebula and even noticed sand clouds on the brown dwarf.