September 22, 2022
Jonathan Amos | BBC Science Correspondent
NASA’s James Webb space telescope has taken stunning new pictures of Neptune.
This is the first time the planet has been pictured in such detail since the images taken by Voyager 2 in 989 as it passed by Neptune.
The technology used by the infrared instruments of the space telescope has a great impact on this.
The rings and dust lanes surrounding Neptune, also known as the ice giant, can be seen in the photos.
Scientists hope that various cloud configurations will also shed light on studies of Neptune’s atmosphere.
Beyond Neptune, all seven of the planet’s 14 moons can be observed.
The most prominent of these, Triton, has a star-like shape in images taken by the James Webb telescope.
It is stated that this is due to the absorption of methane at infrared wavelengths, making Neptune appear darker in the telescope’s lens.
Triton, on the other hand, is extremely bright, reflecting an average of 70 percent of the sunlight hitting its icy surface.
Professor Leigh Fletcher of the University of Leicester said at the Europlanetary Planetary Congress in Granada that “everyone is trying to interpret these pictures by looking at their phones, but seeing these rings and accessing wavelengths that no one has been able to reach in the past is an incredible experience.”
“It’s great to see how excited everyone is,” Fletcher says.
“Long wavelengths are something brand new and offer a new look, with an equatorial stripe that looks like the bright stripes of Jupiter and Saturn.
“Neptune’s powerful storms are more active than ever, and the entire Neptune family is represented here, along with Triton and other moons.”
Beyond Neptune, Uranus, and Saturn, it is the farthest planet in the Solar System. It is located in the inner circle of the dwarf planet Pluto.
The distance of the planet, also known as the ice giant, to the Sun is 4.5 billion kilometers, and it takes 164.8 Earth years to go around the Sun for one revolution.
Neptune, which has a large amount of hydrogen and helium in its atmosphere, also contains large amounts of ice, water, ammonia and methane.
Neptune’s diameter is about 50,000 kilometers, almost four times that of Earth.