May 30, 2023

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James Webb has provided unprecedented images of distant Neptune

NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI via AP

The James Webb Space Telescope has once again demonstrated its capabilities by photographing Neptune and its rings. They are the clearest images of the distant planet’s rings taken in more than three decades, since they were photographed by the Voyager 2 flyby in 1989.

NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI via AP

Some dynamic episodes of Neptune are being filmed for the first time, while others have never been seen in such clarity before. Neptune, which is 30 times farther from the Sun than Earth, has fascinated astronomers since its discovery in 1846. It takes 164 Earth years to create a complete orbit around the Sun, i.e. spending a year in the planet.

NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI via AP

The planet is characterized as an icy giant, and compared to the other two giant planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, it is richer in chemical elements heavier than hydrogen and helium.

Webb also photographed seven of Neptune’s 14 known moons, most notably Triton, which is covered in condensed, frozen nitrogen and reflects about 70% of the sunlight that falls on it, making the moon appear brighter than its planet. Further observations of Neptune and Triton are planned with Webb for 2023.

The James Webb Space Telescope was developed by NASA in cooperation with the European Space Agency (9ESA) and Canada (CSA). As in the case of the Hubble Space Telescope, European scientists are entitled to at least 15% of the total observation time taken by Webb.

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