LOOK: NASA Drops Crystal Clear Pic of Neptune’s Rings

by Emily Morgan

The recently launched James Webb telescope has returned. This time, it’s brought us a fantastic new image of Neptune. NASA recently released photos that show the planet’s rings. However, it gets better. For the first time in 30 years, viewers can see the details of the rings and dust bands that circle the icy giant.

The last time viewers got pictures of Neptune was when the Voyager 2 probe flew past the planet in 1989. Now, we have updated pics to marvel at.

“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,” said Heidi Hammel in a NASA press release. Hammel is a planetary scientist on the Webb Space Telescope team.

In addition, scientists can now study the different cloud structures, which will tell them something new about the formation of Neptune’s atmosphere.

Beyond the planet itself are seven of Neptune’s 14 moons, the most prominent of which is Triton. To viewers, Triton looks less like a moon and more like a star in Webb’s photos.

According to reports, the planet is darkened in the instrument’s view thanks to methane absorption at infrared wavelengths. However, Triton reflects an average of 70% of the sunlight that hits its frigid surface.

Leigh Fletcher, a professor from Leicester University, was at the Europlanet Science Congress in Granada, Spain when NASA dropped the images to the public.

“It’s great to see how excited everyone is,” he said in an interview.

Professor weighs in on new images from James Webb Telescope: ‘The whole Neptune family is represented here’

“The longer wavelengths are brand new and could give us a window on to the deep circulation patterns, with a bright equatorial band that looks a bit like the bright bands of Jupiter and Saturn,” he said.

He added: “Neptune’s powerful storms are as active as ever, and the whole Neptune family is represented here, with those ring moons and Triton.”

Neptune is 17 times more massive than Earth and slightly more massive than Uranus. It’s also the farthest known solar planet. Neptune revolves around the sun at a distance of nearly 4.5 billion kilometers. In addition, it takes the giant planet almost 165 years to make one revolution.

Like the other outer Solar System behemoths, its atmosphere contains high amounts of hydrogen and helium. However, the planet is ripe in ice, water, ammonia, and methane.

As for how it compares to Earth, its diameter is four times larger than the Earth’s, at nearly 50,000 kilometers.

Moreso, Neptune is so far away that astronomers didn’t discover it until 1846. In addition, when Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006, Neptune officially became the outermost planet in the solar system.