NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope captures sharp views of Neptune’s rings

NASA released new images of Neptune on Wednesday that revealed the solar system’s eighth planet from the sun and its rings in a new light.

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The photographs, from the James Webb Space Telescope, show the sharpest images of Neptune since Voyager 2 flew by the planet in 1989, CNN reported.

In addition to several bright, narrow rings, the Webb images show Neptune’s fainter 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,” Heidi Hammel, a Neptune expert and interdisciplinary scientist on the Webb project, said in a statement.

Photographs of Neptune have frequently shown the planet’s blue tint, caused by its gaseous methane atmosphere, because the images were captured at visible wavelengths of light, NASA said in a news release. In the new images, Neptune looks white in images sent by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam).

Neptune is officially the most distant planet in our solar system. Pluto was reclassified in 2006 from a planet to a dwarf planet, according to NASA.

Neptune and Uranus are known as “ice giants” because their interiors are composed of heavier elements than the solar system’s largest planets, Jupiter and Saturn, which contain more hydrogen and helium, according to NASA.

The Webb telescope also captured images of seven of Neptune’s 14 known moons, according to a news release. Dominating this Webb portrait of Neptune is a very bright point of light. It is not a star but Neptune’s moon, Triton. The satellite is brighter than Neptune and circles the planet in a retrograde, or backward, orbit.

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