James Webb took the clearest photo of Neptune's rings – 7 satellites of the planet and unknown clouds at the South Pole also got into the frame

James Webb took the clearest photo of Neptune's rings - 7 satellites of the planet and unknown clouds at the South Pole also got into the frame

NASA’s James Webb Telescope is working not only to study the far edge of the universe, but also in the solar system. Not only did it capture the clearest image of Neptune’s rings in more than 30 years, it showed the ice giant in a whole new light.


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James Webb James Webb Neptune

Some of the rings in the photo have not been seen since Voyager 2 observed Neptune during its flyby in 1989. In addition to several bright narrow rings, the Webb image clearly shows Neptune’s fainter dust lanes.

“It’s been three decades since we last saw these faint dusty rings, and this is the first time we’re seeing them in infrared,” said Heidi Hummel, an expert on the Neptune system.

James Webb also photographed 7 of Neptune’s 14 known moons: Galatea, Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Proteus, Larissa, and Triton. Neptune’s large moon, Triton, dominates the landscape as a very bright point of light with the characteristic diffraction peaks seen in many of the Webb images .


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James Webb James Webb Neptune

Also in the field of view of Webb was the previously known vortex at the south pole of the planet, but the telescope for the first time detected a continuous band of clouds surrounding it.

Covered in shiny nitrogen ice, Triton reflects 70% of the sunlight falling on it. In the image, it is much brighter than Neptune – methane from the planet’s atmosphere absorbs infrared waves of the wavelength observed by the telescope. Triton revolves around Neptune in an unusual reverse (retrograde) orbit – astronomers believe that this satellite was pulled by the planet’s gravity from the Kuiper belt.

Neptune is characterized as an ice giant due to the chemical composition of its interior. Compared to the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn, Neptune is much richer in elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. This is clearly seen in the characteristic blue color of the planet in the images of the Hubble Space Telescope in the visible wavelength range – the color gives a small amount of methane gas.

Hubble Hubble Neptune

The James Webb Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) displays objects in the 0.6 to 5 micron range, so Neptune does not appear blue to Webb. Methane gas absorbs red and infrared light so strongly that the planet appears rather pale, except in places where high-altitude clouds of methane ice are present. They are distinguished by bright stripes and spots that reflect sunlight before it is absorbed by methane gas.

In 2023, the James Webb telescope will study Neptune and its environs in more detail.

“James Webb” sent amazing pictures of Jupiter with the aurora, which is a thousand times stronger than the Earth’s

Source: NASA

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