Webb continues to bombard: photographed Neptune for the first time
The Webb Space Telescope continues to demonstrate its capabilities, and this time it turns its eye closer to home, photographing Neptune itself for the first time.
The results, as in the other cases, are beautiful and contain details that we have not seen in decades since the visit of "Voyager 2"
Thursday, September 22, 2022, 11:19 am Updated: 11:23 am
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Neptune as photographed by James Webb (photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI)
The Webb space telescope took its first image of Neptune this week, in a bright and beautiful photo: not only did Webb pick up the rings of the distant star in the solar system clearly for the first time in 30 years, but it shows the ice giant at the edge of the solar system in a completely new light, literally.
The highlight of Webb's photography is really the sharp and clear image of the rings surrounding the star, a detail that hasn't been captured with such clarity since Voyager 2 flew past Neptune in 1989.
In addition to the narrow rings, you can see the faded dust rings that accompany them.
In addition to the narrow rings, you can see the faded dust rings that accompany them (Photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI)
"It's been three decades since we first saw these thin, dusty rings, and this is the first time we've seen them in infrared," notes Heidi Hamel, systems engineer and interdisciplinary expert on Neptune with the Webb mission.
The high-quality and stable photography of Neptune, is that you can see them.
Webb also managed to photograph seven of Neptune's 14 moons: Goliath, Neiad, Thales, Despina, Proteus, Larisa and Triton, which stands out in the picture.
Neptune, the eighth star in our solar system, has fascinated space explorers since its discovery in 1846.
Neptune, 30 times farther from the Sun than Earth, hovers in a dark region at the edge of the Solar System.
At such a distance, the Sun is so small that noon on Neptune would look like twilight on Earth.
Neptune is classified as an ice giant due to the chemical composition of the star's interior.
Compared to the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn, Neptune is richer in heavy elements such as hydrogen and helium, while Neptune's blue color in Hubble's photographs (which takes photos in the visible light range) is due to small amounts of methane gas.
However, in Webb's infrared camera (NIRCam), Neptune does not appear bluish at all.
In fact, the methane gas in Neptune's atmosphere absorbs red wavelengths so efficiently that the planet appears slightly dark to Webb's eyes, except in areas of high cloudiness.
These methane-ice clouds are so dominant that they reflect sunlight before it is swallowed by the methane, and these create the beautiful image that Webb took.
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