A brand new picture from the James Webb House Telescope reveals eight of Neptune’s moons and 4 of its rings – two of which haven’t been seen in additional than 30 years



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21 September 2022

Webb?s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) image of Neptune, taken on July 12, 2022, brings the planet?s rings into full focus for the first time in more than three decades. The most prominent features of Neptune?s atmosphere in this image are a series of bright patches in the planet?s southern hemisphere that represent high-altitude methane-ice clouds. More subtly, a thin line of brightness circling the planet?s equator could be a visual signature of global atmospheric circulation that powers Neptune?s winds and storms. Additionally, for the first time, Webb has teased out a continuous band of high-latitude clouds surrounding a previously-known vortex at Neptune?s southern pole.

Neptune’s rings shine brilliant in an infrared picture from the James Webb House Telescope

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

The James Webb House Telescope (JWST) has seen Neptune in extraordinary element. The brand new picture reveals the planet’s rings, a few of its moons and bands of warmth round its floor.

Whereas Neptune seems blue in seen wavelengths attributable to methane fuel in its ambiance, that methane absorbs the infrared gentle that JWST observes, so the planet seems a kind of glowing white color when considered in these wavelengths. The brightest areas are icy clouds excessive within the ambiance, which mirror daylight earlier than methane can take up it.

The brand new picture additionally reveals Neptune’s two brilliant rings, as effectively of two of its fainter ones. The rings are filled with mud, which makes them dimmer and more durable to identify than shining, icy rings like those that encircle Saturn.

“It has been three a long time since we final noticed these faint, dusty rings, and that is the primary time we’ve seen them within the infrared,” stated JWST scientist Heidi Hammel in an announcement.

The final – and solely – time now we have seen the faintest of Neptune’s rings was when NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft flew previous the planet in 1989.

Eight of Neptune’s moons are seen within the picture as spots of sunshine, the brightest being the planet’s largest moon, Triton. This moon system is especially unusual – Triton, as an illustration, orbits Neptune backwards – so further JWST observations of each Neptune and Triton are deliberate for later within the 12 months.

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