James Webb Shared the Clearest View of Neptune's Fascinating Rings Ever

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 The famous rings of the planet Neptune have been imaged by the James Webb Space Telescope. This is the first time in history that the planet's rings have been photographed so clearly.

The planet Neptune has become the new stop of the James Webb Space Telescope. This is the first time that the planet's rings have been imaged so clearly.

Whipped by dark, cold, and supersonic winds, Neptune is described as the most distant planet in the Solar System. Known as "ice giants" along with its neighbor Uranus, the planet is made up of elements whose internal structures are heavier than the hydrogen- and helium-rich gas giants Jupiter and Saturn.

Now, new images from the James Webb Space Telescope, which NASA launched into space last December, reveal Neptune and its fascinating rings that are difficult to detect in a new light. Heidi Hammel, an expert on Neptune and an interdisciplinary scientist on the Webb project, spoke about the newly taken photos and said:

"It's been thirty years since we last saw these faint, dusty rings, and this is the first time we've seen them in the infrared."

In addition to a few clear and narrow rings, images from Webb also show the planet's fainter dust bands. Some of the rings have not been observed since NASA's Voyager 2 obtained the first photographic evidence of the existence of the planet's rings in 1989.

In the new images, Neptune appears white in color in contrast to the typical blue appearance it has in views captured at visible wavelengths of light. That's because gaseous methane, which is part of the planet's chemical makeup, doesn't appear blue on Webb's Near Infrared camera (NIRCam).

Apart from the Neptune Rings, Some of the Planet's Moons Have Also Been Imaged

This image, taken with James Webb's Near Infrared camera, also shows scattering next to the planet, consisting of hundreds of background galaxies that vary in size and shape. The images also feature methane-ice clouds. These are bright lines and spots that reflect sunlight before being absorbed by methane gas. It's also possible to detect a bright, thin line surrounding the planet's equator, which could be "a visual signature of the global atmospheric circulation that powers the planet's winds and storms," according to NASA.
The new space telescope also photographed seven of Neptune's 14 known moons, including Triton, the largest moon moving in an unusual backward orbit around the planet. Astronomers think Triton is perhaps an object in the Kuiper Belt — a region of icy objects at the edge of the Solar System — that falls under the planet's gravitational grasp. Researchers plan to use Webb to study Triton and Neptune further in the coming years.

Located 30 times farther from the Sun than Earth, Neptune is moving in the distant, dark region of the outer solar system. At this distance, our heat source star is so small and faint that the midday experienced on the planet resembles a dim twilight on Earth.