Neptune as we have never seen it before

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Neptune as we have never seen it before

The telescope James Webb never ceases to amaze us with the images of the Universe that it captures. Recently, the space observatory captured the image of a space object closer to us than galaxies and stars, the planet neptune. The latter appears in the photo taken by Webb in an unfamiliar form, the telescope operating in the infrared range. Additionally, the planet’s rings are visible for the first time in more than 30 years.

The last time astronomers could contemplate the rings of Neptuneit was 32 years ago when the Voyager 2 probe passed near the planet. The probe was then on its way out of the solar system. According to Heidi Hammel, planetary scientist at AURA or Association of Universities for Research in Astronomyit’s been three decades since we’ve seen these nearly invisible dust lanes, and that’s the first time we see them in the infrared range.

Neptune seen by Webb
Credits NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

Proving once again that it is far more powerful than all other telescopes, the Webb Telescope has captured an image showing other rings of Neptune. The visibility of these rings is so low that even Voyager 2 could not see them. This is the first time that scientists have been able to observe them.

Why does Neptune appear white?

Those who have already seen the photos of Neptune taken by the telescope Hubble have surely noticed, the planet is not blue on the new image. The color blue, which is caused by the presence of methane in the atmosphere of the planetdoes not appear since Webb sees the planet in the near-infrared range.

The methane in Neptune’s ice clouds strongly absorbs light in these wavelengths. The parts of the planet that are not covered by bright high-altitude clouds are thus darker in the photo.

What we can see on the new image

Many details appear in the image of Neptune taken by the Webb telescope. There is for example a series of bright spots in the southern hemisphere. These are high-altitude ice clouds that reflect sunlight before the methane can absorb it.

You can also see a bright line around the equator. It indicates the global circulation of strong winds and storms in the atmosphere of the planet.

Among the details that have puzzled scientists is this luminosity in the region of the north pole of Neptune. Currently, the north pole of the latter should not be visible from the position of the Webb telescope. However, the latter still managed to capture something.

Neptune isn’t the only space object that appears in the picture. In fact, we can also see 7 planet moons. In particular, above the ice giant, there is a very bright point which is none other than Triton. This moon is covered in a frozen layer of condensed nitrogen and reflects about 70% of sunlight.


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