The James Webb Telescope captured images of Neptune’s rings and moons

As the James Webb Space Telescope continues its tour of the Solar System, it has taken its first photo of the most distant planet in our cosmic neighborhood, Neptune. Scientists have released the best view of Neptune’s rings in 30 years.

The photo of the icy world is not only clear but offers the first glimpse of Neptune’s dust-based rings in the near-infrared spectrum. At these wavelengths, the planet does not appear blue because it absorbs so much infrared and visible red light that it takes on a dark, ghostly appearance.
Seven of Neptune’s 14 confirmed moons are visible in the photo, namely Triton, Galatea, Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Protes and Larissa. Bright spots and streaks on the planet represent clouds of methane and ice, including a vortex at the South Pole. Triton’s appearance is striking because of its surface of condensed nitrogen, which reflects 70 percent of sunlight.

Neptune is particularly important to scientists because it is far enough from the Sun to have conditions not present on the closer planets, namely very cold temperatures and a very long orbit, lasting 164 years.

This is all just the beginning of research with the James Webb Telescope, as researchers expect to learn more about Neptune and Triton over the next year. Astronomers are collecting only preliminary data at this stage.

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