It’s Neptune like it hasn’t been seen before.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration released an image of the planet Wednesday that it said is the clearest view of Neptune’s rings in 30 years, and put the planet in a new light.
a scientist working for the James Webb Space Telescope, which captured the rings, said she cried when she saw the image. “I was yelling, making my kids, my mom, even my cats look,” she wrote on Twitter.
The Webb telescope, launched late last year, is 100 times as powerful as NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, which has orbited Earth for more than 30 years.
Webb’s new image shows a luminescent Neptune with bright, dusty rings around it. The deep-space telescope also captured seven of Neptune’s 14 known moons, with the brightest-looking one being Triton. That moon is covered in a frozen sheen of condensed nitrogen reflecting much of the sunlight that hits it, NASA said.
NASA didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Neptune, first discovered in 1846, is nearly four times wider than Earth and 30 times farther from the sun than our planet.
The Webb telescope, developed jointly by NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, orbits the sun about 1 million miles from Earth.
Unlike Hubble, which detects mostly visible light, Webb detects mostly infrared light. That allows it to capture images of older and more distant galaxies, giving astronomers a peek into how the universe took shape just after the big bang almost 14 billion years ago.
In July, NASA released Webb photos that it said were the deepest of the universe ever taken. President
unveiled the pictures at the White House at the time: “Today is a historic day,” Mr.
said, adding that the telescope’s first images “show what we can achieve, and what more we can discover.”
Webb’s infrared cameras didn’t show Neptune in its blue hue, like Hubble did. Instead, Webb’s images picked up bright spots on the planet that NASA said are methane-ice clouds.
Write to Joseph Pisani at firstname.lastname@example.org
Corrections & Amplifications
NASA released an image of Neptune Wednesday that it said is the clearest view of the planet’s rings in 30 years. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said the image was released Tuesday. (Corrected on Sept. 22)
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