Researchers have shared the first image of Neptune from the Webb Space Telescope, and it is perhaps the best view of the planet’s rings in recent decades. The first ever photo of the rings in the near-infrared spectrum is quite clear. At these wavelengths, Neptune does not appear blue because it absorbs so much infrared and visible red light that it appears darker, reports Engadget.
The image shows 7 of Neptune’s 14 confirmed moons, including Triton, which appears as a star at the top of the image, as well as Galatea, Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Proteus and Larissa. The bright spots and streaks on Neptune are clouds of methane and ice, and a vortex at the south pole. Triton’s eye-catching appearance is the result of both the distinctive diffraction spikes of the James Webb Telescope and the condensed nitrogen surface, which normally reflects 70% of sunlight.
Neptune is a particularly important object of study for scientists, because it is located at a distance of approximately 4.5 billion kilometers from the Sun. Accordingly, there are conditions there that do not exist for the closer planets, such as very low temperatures and the time of one complete rotation around the Sun — 164.8 Earth years.
This is just the beginning of the research, so scientists are hoping for more observations of Neptune and its moon Triton over the next year. As with the recent observations of Mars and Jupiter, so far astronomers are collecting only preliminary data. It may be a while before additional data emerges that could improve our understanding of Neptune and the cosmos in general.