SCIENCE WRITING – Neptune appears with a new image thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope, which has captured the clearest view of its rings in more than thirty years and seven of its many moons.
The infrared vision of the new telescope reveals this icy giant in a totally new light, says in a note the European Space Agency (ESA), which participates in James Webb together with the American NASA and the Canadian CSA.
The images give a clear view of its rings, some previously unseen and others not seen in such detail since the Voyager 2 space probe came closest to the planet in 1989, and clearly show the fainter dust lanes surrounding the planet.
Neptune, discovered in 1846, is thirty times farther from the Sun than Earth and orbits in one of the darkest parts of the solar system. A noon there is similar to a dim twilight on Earth, reminds the ESA.
Webb also captured seven of Neptune’s fourteen known moons, and the image shows a very bright point of light with the characteristic diffraction spikes seen in many telescope images, but it’s not a star, it’s the closest moon. unusual planet, Triton.
Covered in an icy sheen of condensed nitrogen, Triton reflects an average of 70% of incoming sunlight, far exceeding Neptune, because the planet’s atmosphere is darkened by the absorption of methane at wavelengths by Webb
Triton has a strange retrograde orbit around Neptune, which has led astronomers to speculate that this moon was actually a Kuiper Belt object that was gravitationally captured by the planet.
Additional studies of Triton and Neptune are scheduled to be carried out next year, recalls the ESA note.
Neptune is characterized as an ice giant due to the chemical composition of its interior, which is evident in the characteristic blue appearance of the images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope -predecessor of the James Webb- in visible wavelengths, caused by small amounts of gaseous methane.
In Webb’s images, thanks to his near-infrared camera, Neptune does not appear blue. In addition, a thin line of brightness is observed surrounding the planet’s equator, which could be a visual signature of the global atmospheric circulation that drives the planet’s winds and storms.
Neptune’s 164-year orbit means its north pole is just out of sight of astronomers, but Webb’s images hint at “an intriguing glow in that area.”
A previously known vortex at the south pole is evident in Webb’s view, but for the first time it has revealed a continuous band of clouds surrounding it.
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