James Webb's clearest picture of Neptune in 32 years

NASA on September 21 released the first image of the James Webb space telescope of Neptune, the giant ice planet in the solar system.

Neptune and its rings in this James Webb image. Photo: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI

The new image gives astronomers the clearest view of Neptune's icy rings in 32 years, since the Voyager 2 spacecraft passed by the planet on its way out of the solar system.

"It's been three decades since we last saw those faint dust belts, and this is the first time we've observed them in near-infrared light," said Heidi Hammel, planetary scientist at the Consortium. Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), said.

In addition to the known bright and narrow rings, the new James Webb image shows some of the fainter dust rings around Neptune. Scientists have never seen them, not even when Voyager 2 came close to the planet in 1989.

The James Webb telescope photographed Neptune and 7 moons, the most prominent of which is the moon Triton above. Photo: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI

In Hubble space telescope images, Neptune is often seen in a characteristic blue color. This blue color is caused by atmospheric methane and does not appear in the new image because the James Webb telescope observes Neptune in near-infrared light. Because the methane in Neptune's icy clouds absorbs light strongly at these wavelengths, regions without bright clouds and at high altitudes look rather dark.

Another highlight is the series of bright patches in Neptune's southern hemisphere. They are ice clouds at high altitudes in the atmosphere that reflect sunlight before being absorbed by the methane in the clouds.

This image of the James Webb telescope shows a band of high-latitude clouds surrounding a cyclone at Neptune's south pole. In addition, the scientists also detected a thin, faint light streak around the equator, which may be atmospheric circulation. Neptune's north pole also has a curious light.

James Webb provided scientists with images of Neptune's 7 moons. The bright spot above Neptune is the moon Triton. This moon is covered with a dense layer of frozen nitrogen and appears brighter than Neptune because it reflects about 70% of sunlight.

Thu Thao (According to Space )

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