The James Webb Telescope has captured an image of a luminous Neptune and its delicate, dusty rings in detail not seen in decades, NASA said Wednesday.
The JWST captured Neptune and its moons in infrared light, revealing the planet’s rings in amazing detail.
The image is not only the clearest view of the planet but the camera of the telescope also unveiled the ice giant in a whole new light, said the space agency.
The new photos also show a bright line around the planet that might indicate the atmospheric circulation that makes the planet’s winds blow and allows storms to pop up, NASA added.
James Webb Telescope latest image is the clearest look at Neptune’s rings in 30+ years, and our first time seeing them in infrared light. Take in Webb’s ghostly, ethereal views of the planet and its dust bands, rings and moons. In visible light, Neptune appears blue due to small amounts of methane gas in its atmosphere.
James Webb Telescope NIRCam instrument instead observed Neptune at near-infrared wavelengths, so Neptune doesn’t look so blue! That’s no star. It’s Neptune’s large, unusual moon, Triton! Because Triton is covered in frozen, condensed nitrogen, it reflects 70% of the sunlight that hits it — making it appear very bright to Webb. 6 of Neptune’s other moons (labeled) are also seen here.
Neptune, the furthest planet in the solar system, is known as an “ice giant” alongside Uranus because the interior consists of denser chemicals than the gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn, according to NASA.
The new Neptune observations are the first of many for the James Webb Telescope, which has been making the rounds of the solar system since it began operations this summer.
The observatory has captured a remarkable view of Jupiter and the lustrous auroras drifting over its poles, and snuck a peek at Mars.
Because of the JWST’s sensitivity, the telescope will be able to observe weather on our solar system’s planets and moons through the course of the telescope’s mission.