James Webb Space Telescope of NASA Captures First Image of Neptune

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NASA said that the James Webb Space Telescope obtained its first image of Neptune, providing the sharpest look of the planet's rings in more than three decades. The most stunning aspect of the image is the clear glimpse of the planet's rings, some of which have not been identified since NASA's Voyager 2 became the first spacecraft to survey Neptune during its 1989 flyby, according to the US space agency.

In addition to numerous brilliant, narrow rings, the Webb image reveals the fainter dust bands of Neptune.

Heidi Hammel, a Neptune system expert and transdisciplinary scientist for Webb, stated in a release, "It has been three decades since we last observed these weak, dusty rings, and this is the first time we have observed them in the infrared."

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Neptune is 30 times further from the Sun than Earth and orbits in the desolate, dark region of the solar system's farthest reaches.

Due to the chemical composition of the planet's interior, it is classified as an ice giant. Neptune is substantially more abundant in elements heavier than hydrogen and helium than Jupiter and Saturn, the gas giants.

This is abundantly seen in Hubble Space Telescope photographs at visible wavelengths of Neptune's trademark blue hue, which is created by minute quantities of gaseous methane. The Webb telescope's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) captures images in the near-infrared region of 0.6 to 5 microns, therefore Neptune does not seem blue.

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The methane gas absorbs red and infrared light so powerfully that, unless high-altitude clouds are present, the planet is quite dark at these near-infrared wavelengths.

Over the years, images from other observatories, including as the Hubble Space Telescope and the W.M. Keck Observatory, have captured the rapid evolution of these cloud structures.

NASA suggests that a thin line of brightness circling the equator of the planet may be an indication of the global atmospheric circulation that drives Neptune's winds and storms.

It was stated that because the atmosphere falls and heats at the equator, it emits more infrared light than the surrounding, cooler gases. Webb has revealed for the first time a continuous band of high-latitude clouds enclosing a previously identified vortex near the southern polar region.

Webb also captured seven of the fourteen known moons of Neptune. The extremely bright source of light visible in Webb's photos is Triton, the big and unique moon of Neptune.


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