James Webb Space Telescope pictures Neptune NASA

James Webb Space Telescope has captured its first image of Neptune, revealing clearest view of the planet's rings, NASA said.

| Updated on: Sep 24 2022, 11:52 IST
In Pics: Terrifying asteroid hurtling towards Earth! Impending doom?
NASA's James Webb Telescope captures Neptune's rings.
1/6 NASA, with the help of its various telescopes, has discovered a huge asteroid heading dangerously towards Earth today. This particular asteroid has caused a panic among space agencies as it was discovered less than two days ago on September 20, 2022. Will it prove to be a planet-killer? (NASA/JPL)
NASA's James Webb Telescope captures Neptune's rings.
2/6 Although this asteroid does not pose any viable threat to Earth and will pass the planet safely, it was still classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid due to the close proximity of its encounter with Earth. (NASA)
NASA's James Webb Telescope captures Neptune's rings.
3/6 The asteroid, named Asteroid 2022 SG3, is set to make its closest approach to Earth today, September 22, at a distance of 667,000 kilometers, making it one of the closest asteroid approaches we have had this month. The asteroid is already on its way towards Earth travelling at a staggering speed of 38,628 kilometers per hour. (Pixabay)
NASA's James Webb Telescope captures Neptune's rings.
4/6 Asteroid 2022 SG3 was discovered very recently on September 20, 2022 and it belongs to the Apollo group of asteroids. According to the-sky.org, the asteroid completes 1 orbit around the Sun in 1002 days. During this orbit, its farthest distance from the Sun is 451 million kilometers while the nearest distance is 136 million kilometers. (Pixabay)
NASA's James Webb Telescope captures Neptune's rings.
5/6 How does NASA track these asteroids? NASA keeps a watch on these asteroids by studying data collected by various telescopes and observatories such as the Pan-STARRS, the Catalina Sky Survey and the NEOWISE telescope. NASA also has a NEO Surveyor mission planned for launch in 2026 to gain even greater in-depth data using a new orbiter. (Pixabay)
NASA's James Webb Telescope captures Neptune's rings.
6/6 NASA also has a new impact monitoring system in place which uses an algorithm called Sentry-II to calculate the impact risk of Near-Earth Objects. NASA can track the orbital path of the asteroid using this infrared data and can even predict its orbit years into the future. (Pixabay)
NASA's James Webb Telescope captures Neptune's rings.
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NASA's James Webb Telescope captures Neptune's rings. (NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI)

The James Webb Space Telescope has captured its first image of Neptune, revealing the clearest view of the distant planet's rings in more than 30 years, NASA said.

The most striking feature in the image is the crisp view of the planet's rings -- some of which have not been detected since NASA's Voyager 2 became the first spacecraft to observe Neptune during its flyby in 1989, the US space agency said.

In addition to several bright, narrow rings, the Webb image clearly shows Neptune's fainter dust bands.

"It has been three decades since we last saw these faint, dusty rings, and this is the first time we have seen them in the infrared," Heidi Hammel, a Neptune system expert and interdisciplinary scientist for Webb said in a statement.

Neptune is located 30 times farther from the Sun than Earth, and orbits in the remote, dark region of the outer solar system.

The planet is characterised as an ice giant due to the chemical make-up of its interior. Compared to the gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn, Neptune is much richer in elements heavier than hydrogen and helium.

This is readily apparent in Neptune's signature blue appearance in Hubble Space Telescope images at visible wavelengths, caused by small amounts of gaseous methane. Webb's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) images objects in the near-infrared range from 0.6 to 5 microns, so Neptune does not appear blue to the telescope.

The methane gas so strongly absorbs red and infrared light that the planet is quite dark at these near-infrared wavelengths, except where high-altitude clouds are present, the researchers said.

Images from other observatories, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the W.M. Keck Observatory, have recorded these rapidly evolving cloud features over the years.

A thin line of brightness circling the planet's equator could be a visual signature of global atmospheric circulation that powers Neptune's winds and storms, according to NASA.

The atmosphere descends and warms at the equator, and thus glows at infrared wavelengths more than the surrounding, cooler gases, it said. A previously-known vortex at the southern pole is evident in Webb's view, but for the first time Webb has revealed a continuous band of high-latitude clouds surrounding it.

Webb also captured seven of Neptune's 14 known moons. A very bright point of light seen in Webb's images is Neptune's large and unusual moon, Triton.

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First Published Date: 24 Sep, 11:51 IST
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