Webb’s view of Neptune – NIRCam
2022-09-21 - This image of the Neptune system, captured by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), reveals stunning views of the planet’s rings, which have not been seen with this clarity in more than three decades. Webb’s new image of Neptune also captures details of the planet’s turbulent, windy atmosphere.
Neptune, an ice giant, has an interior that is much richer in elements heavier than hydrogen and helium, like methane, than the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn. Methane appears blue in visible wavelengths but, as evident in Webb’s image, that’s not the case in the near-infrared.
Methane so strongly absorbs red and infrared light that the planet is quite dark at near-infrared wavelengths, except where high-altitude clouds are present. These methane-ice clouds are prominent in Webb’s image as bright streaks and spots, which reflect sunlight before it is absorbed by methane gas.
To the upper left of the planet in this image, one of Neptune’s moons, Triton, also sports Webb’s distinctive eight diffraction spikes, an artifact of the telescope’s structure. Webb also captured 6 more of Neptune’s 14 known moons, along with a smattering of distant galaxies that appear as dim splotches and a nearby star. (Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI)
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