NASA's James Webb Telescope Captures Clearest Image Of Neptune Rings In 30 Years | See Here

Located 30 times farther from the Sun than Earth, Neptune has always fascinated researchers since its discovery in 1846. The planet orbits in the remote, dark region of the outer solar system.

By Anushka Vats
Thu, 22 Sep 2022 09:34 AM IST
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NASA's James Webb Telescope Captures Clearest Image Of Neptune Rings In 30 Years | See Here
Image: Twitter/@NASAWebb

THE NATIONAL Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) James Webb Space Telescope on Wednesday revealed its first image of Nepture. 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 picture was posted on the official Twitter handle of NASA's Webb Telescope along with the caption, "Hey Neptune. Did you ring? Webb’s 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."

“It has been three decades since we last saw these faint, dusty rings, and this is the first time we’ve seen them in the infrared,” notes Heidi Hammel, a Neptune system expert in a statement. The interdisciplinary scientist also mentioned that Webb’s extremely stable and precise image quality permits these very faint rings to be detected so close to Neptune.

Located 30 times farther from the Sun than Earth, Neptune has always fascinated researchers since its discovery in 1846. The planet orbits in the remote, dark region of the outer solar system. At that extreme distance, the Sun is so small and faint that high noon on Neptune is similar to a dim twilight on Earth.

It is characterized as an ice giant due to the chemical makeup of its interior. Neptune is much richer in elements heavier than hydrogen and helium as compared to the gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn.

NASA also informed why the planet appears blue in Hubble Space Telescope images but not in the images taken by Webb. As per the space agency, the ice giant appears blue at visible wavelengths due to small amounts of gaseous methane. Meanwhile, "Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) images objects in the near-infrared range from 0.6 to 5 microns, so Neptune does not appear blue to Webb," it said.

"The methane gas so strongly absorbs red and infrared light that the planet is quite dark at these near-infrared wavelengths, except where high-altitude clouds are present," read the statement on NASA's official website. "Such methane-ice clouds are prominent as bright streaks and spots, which reflect sunlight before it is absorbed by methane gas. Images from other observatories, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the W.M. Keck Observatory, have recorded these rapidly evolving cloud features over the years," the statement added.

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