James Webb Space Telescope captures surprisingly sharp images of Neptune and its rings

James Webb Space Telescope captures surprisingly sharp images of Neptune and its rings

(CNN) — New images released Wednesday by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope are revealing Neptune and the planet’s hard-to-detect rings, in a fresh light.

“It’s been three decades since we’ve seen these faint, dusty rings, and this is the first time we’ve seen them in the infrared,” said Heidi Hammel, a Neptune expert and interdisciplinary scientist on the Webb project, in a news report. release.

In addition to several sharp, narrow rings, the Webb images show the faintest dust lanes on Neptune. Some of the rings have not been observed since NASA’s Voyager 2 obtained the first photographic proof of the existence of Neptune’s rings during its flyby in 1989.

Dark, cold and whipped by supersonic winds, Neptune is the most distant planet in our solar system. The planet and its neighbor Uranus are known as “ice giants” because their interiors are composed of elements heavier than the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn, which are richer in hydrogen and helium.

In the new images, Neptune appears white, as opposed to the typical blue. appearance it has in views captured at visible wavelengths of light. This is because gaseous methane, part of the planet’s chemical makeup, does not appear blue to Webb’s infrared camera (NIRCam).

Also visible in the images are clouds of methane-ice – streaks and bright spots that reflect sunlight before being absorbed by methane gas. It is also possible to identify a thin, bright line circling the planet’s equator, which could be “a visual signature of the global atmospheric circulation that powers Neptune’s winds and storms,” ​​according to the statement.

In this image from Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera, a handful of hundreds of background galaxies, varying in size and shape, appear alongside Neptune. (NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI via CNN)

Webb also captured seven of Neptune’s 14 known moons, including its largest moon, Triton, which moves around the planet in an unusual backward orbit. Astronomers think that Triton was perhaps an object in the Kuiper Belt – a region of icy objects at the edge of the solar system – that fell into Neptune’s gravitational grip. Scientists plan to use Webb to study more Triton and Neptune in the coming years.

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Located 30 times farther from the sun than Earth, Neptune moves through its solar orbit in the remote, dark region of the outer solar system. At this distance, the sun is so small and faint that noon on Neptune is similar to twilight on Earth, the press release said.

Webb is more than 10-year mission administered by NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

Compared to other telescopes, the space observatory’s massive mirror can see fainter galaxies that are further away and has the potential to improve scientists’ understanding of the origins of the universe. However, it is also using its stable and accurate image quality to illuminate our own solar system, with images of Mars, Jupiter and now Neptune.

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Source : ksltv.com

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