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Neptune Is a Ghost in Breathtaking Webb Telescope Photo, Complete with Rings and Moons

Of all the planets in the solar system, none is under the human spotlight as much as Mars. Our red neighbor fuels the dreams and hopes of many, thanks to its potential of allowing humans to live there. But our not-so-immediate vicinity holds other wonders as well, worlds that even if they are utterly inhospitable, are a delight to look at and study.
Neptune as seen by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) 24 photos
Neptune as seen by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)Neptune as seen by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)Neptune as seen by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)HIP 65426 b in different bands of infrared light, the small white star in each image marks the location of the host star HIP 65426JWST PosterCreation of StarsJames Webb's Deep Field PhotographyJames Webb's Deep Field PhotographyJames Webb's Deep Field PhotographyJames Webb's Deep Field PhotographyJames Webb's Deep Field PhotographyJames Webb's Deep Field PhotographyJames Webb's Deep Field PhotographyJWST Deep Web FieldJWST Deep Web FieldJWST Deep Web FieldJames Webb Telescope sharpness checkJames Webb Telescope as seen by GaiaJames Webb Telescope as seen by GaiaJames Webb Telescope as seen by GaiaJames Webb telescope deploys its massive mirrorJames Webb telescope deploys its massive mirrorJames Webb telescope deploys its massive mirror
Planet Neptune is one of them. The eighth planet from the Sun is not red, like Mars, or orange, like Jupiter, but shines a beautiful blue not on account of water being present there, but because of small amounts of gaseous methane that trick our telescopes into seeing it this way.

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.

Editor's note: Gallery also shows images of the Webb telescope and some of its other discoveries.

 
 
 
 
 

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