But here is Neptune lit up in a ghostly white, something probably none of us has seen before. It’s an image captured by the James Webb Space Telescope (its first of this particular planet) and published this week by NASA to the amazement of us all.
Scientists call this image the “clearest view of this peculiar planet’s rings” since the Voyager 2 passed by the planet in 1989. It was snapped by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), and it’s infrared that’s responsible for the color of the ice giant.
The image reveals the planet in the center, surrounded by bright narrow rings, and even fainter dust bands. On the planet, the Webb image reveals methane-ice clouds in the form of bright streaks and spots. The thin line that wraps around the center of the planet “could be a visual signature of global atmospheric circulation that powers Neptune’s winds and storms,” as per the European Space Agency (ESA).
If you look close enough (and also know where to look - if not, check gallery for details), you’ll even spot the planet’s 14 known moons, including the rather famous Triton.
Scientists tell us we should brace for more amazing Neptune pics in the coming year, as the space telescope will be trained on this place again.