- Jonathan Amos
- BBC Science Correspondent
The recently launched James Webb Space Telescope is sending back stunning new images of Neptune.
Details of Neptune captured by space telescopes using infrared instruments are the first clear views of the solar system’s most distant planet since Voyager 2 passed by Neptune in 1989.
This image details planetary rings made of dust.
Researchers are interested in Neptune’s different cloud structures to provide new clues about the composition of Neptune’s atmosphere.
These details include planetary rings and dust lanes surrounding the giant icy planet.
Beyond Neptune there are seven moons of the giant planet, the most important of which is Triton. Neptune has a total of 14 moons.
It appears as a star in the James Webb Telescope image.
That’s because the methane in Neptune’s atmosphere absorbs infrared wavelengths and darkens Neptune, while Triton’s icy surface reflects about 70 percent of sunlight, making it brighter.
Planetary expert Lee Fletcher from the University of Leicester in the UK attended the Europlanet Science Congress in Granada, Spain.
He told the BBC that everyone at the conference was “trying to interpret it, but it’s amazing to see these halos and we’re evaluating wavelengths that we’ve never seen before”.
“It was exciting to see everyone, it was amazing,” he said.
“The longer wavelengths indicate that the dust is new, the deeper orbital patterns that look like the rings of Jupiter and Saturn, and this is a window in which to study the bright equatorial ring.”
“The storm above Neptune is as active as ever, and all members of the Neptune family are shown in the image with its moon and Triton.”
Neptune is the most distant planet beyond Uranus and Saturn, but inside the asteroid Pluto.
Neptune’s orbit is about 4.5 billion kilometers from the Sun and takes 164.8 years to orbit the Sun.
Like the other giant planets in the Solar System, Neptune has an atmosphere rich in hydrogen and helium. But the planet still has plenty of ice, water, ammonia, and methane.
Neptune is about 50,000 km in diameter and four times the size of Earth.
The James Webb Space Telescope is a joint project of the space agencies of several countries in the United States, Europe, and Canada.
The $10 billion Web telescope was launched on December 25 from French Guiana on an Ariane 5 rocket. Considered to be the successor of the famous Hubble Space Telescope.
The telescope used by the Webb Telescope is 6.5 meters in diameter, the largest ever sent into space.
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