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telescope captures more detailed images of Neptune & More Breaking News

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posted on 09/21/2022 12:40 / updated on 09/21/2022 12:43

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(credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI)

NASA released, on Wednesday morning (9/21), the most detailed images of Neptune in more than 30 years. The record was made by the James Webb Space Telescope. Details of Neptune’s rings have not been captured since 1989, when Voyager 2 became the first spacecraft to observe the planet.

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“It’s been three decades since we last saw these faint, dusty rings, and this is the first time we’ve seen them in the infrared,” notes scientist Heidi Hammel. James Webb recorded seven of Neptune’s 14 known moons: Galatea, Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Proteus, Larissa and Triton.

  Webb captured seven of Neptune's 14 known moons: Galatea, Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Proteus, Larissa and Triton.  Neptune's unusually large moon Triton dominates this Webb portrait of Neptune as a very bright point of light sporting the characteristic diffraction peaks seen in many of Webb's images.
Webb captured seven of Neptune’s 14 known moons: Galatea, Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Proteus, Larissa and Triton. Neptune’s unusually large moon Triton dominates this Webb portrait of Neptune as a very bright point of light sporting the characteristic diffraction peaks seen in many of Webb’s images.
(photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI)

The planet was discovered in 1846 and has fascinated researchers ever since. It is 30 times farther from the Sun than Earth and orbits a dark and remote region of the Solar System. Due to the chemical composition, Neptune is described as an ice giant.

In addition, the planet is rich in elements heavier than hydrogen and helium, which explains the bluish appearance of the celestial body in James Webb’s images at visible wavelengths.

“Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) creates objects in the near-infrared range of 0.6 to 5 microns, so Neptune doesn’t look blue to Webb. In fact, methane gas absorbs light so strongly red and infrared light that the planet is quite dark at these near-infrared wavelengths, except where high-altitude clouds are present,” NASA and the European Space Agency explained in a statement.

The moon Triton stands out in the images. It reflects about 70% of the sunlight that hits it and orbits Neptune in an unusual retrograde orbit. Astronomers speculate that Tristan was not originally a Kuiper belt object that was gravitationally captured by Neptune. Therefore, the James Webb telescope will carry out additional studies of Triton and Neptune in the coming years.

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