HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope captured a new image of Neptune, showing the clearest view of the planet’s rings in the last 30 years.
According to a post by NASA, the new image shows several bright narrow rings, along with the planet’s dust bands.
“It has been three decades since we last saw these faint, dusty rings, and this is the first time we’ve seen them in the infrared,” said Heime Hammel, a Neptune system expert and interdisciplinary scientist for Webb in the release.
Several of Neptune’s rings had not been observed since 1989 when NASA’s Voyager 2 conducted a flyby on the distant planet.
Neptune, which was discovered in 1846, is 30 times farther from the sun than Earth. It’s characterized as an “ice giant” due to its chemical make-up, NASA stated.
The James Webb Space Telescope featured an Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) that captures images in the range of 0.6 to 5 microns. For this reason, Neptune does not appear blue like in previous images. The methane gas absorbs both red and infrared light, causing it to appear dark at the near-infrared wavelengths, NASA stated.
Along with the the view of NASA’s rings, the telescope also captured seven of Neptune’s 14 moons. In the image, what appears to be a bright star can be seen next to Neptune — however this is Neptune’s large moon Triton. According to NASA’s post, Triton reflects 70 percent of sunlight that hits it.