When the words ring and space are associated, one immediately thinks of Saturn. But another planet in our solar system is also surrounded by multiple coronas. Thus, unprecedented images of the planet Neptune and its rings have been captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. These photos also provide valuable information about its atmosphere. has explained NASA on Wednesday.
Astronomers haven’t had such a clear view of the solar system’s most distant planet since the brief, single pass of a probe, Voyager 2, in the vicinity of this icy giant in 1989.
The telescope’s infrared vision provides a new way to analyze its atmosphere, said Mark McCaughrean, science and exploration advisor for the European Space Agency (ESA).
The telescope eliminates all glare due to the sun’s reflection off Neptune’s surface and light pollution from its surroundings, so “to start guessing the atmospheric compositionof the planet, said this astronomer who worked for more than 20 years on the James Webb project.
Neptune appeared bluish in images taken in the visible band by the Hubble telescope, due to the presence of methane in its atmosphere.
With James Webb’s NIRCam instrument, which works in the near infrared, the planet takes on a grayish-white colored hue. The image also shows “a strange light“at one of Neptune’s poles, the US space agency also said in a statement.
The telescope also captured images of seven of the planet’s fourteen known moons. And in particular of Triton, which by its brightness resembles a small star. Larger than the dwarf planet Pluto, it also appears brighter than Neptune due to sunlight reflecting off its icy surface.
Astronomers looking for planets outside our solar system have found that those like Neptune or Uranus are the most common.
“The ability to observe them up close will make it easier to observe other (icy giants) orbiting stars other than our Sun,” McCaughrean said.
In service since last July, the James Webb is the most powerful space telescope ever deployed. It will allow a kind of astronomy”what was unthinkable even five years ago Mr. McCaughrean said.