Neptune, the last planet of the Solar System, is revealed in the infrared by James-Webb. The most sophisticated space telescope ever launched gives us a rare image of the rings of the icy giant. The intriguing moon Triton appears brighter than Neptune.
After the impressive image of Jupiter this summer, of Mars a few days ago, here is a third planet of the Solar systemSolar system targeted by the telescopetelescope James-Webb, the most distant of all: Neptune.
Unlike Hubble, which observed Neptune in the visible, the penetrating view of the JWSTJWST in the near infraredinfrared here reveals characteristics of the eighth and last planet of the Solar System (since the exclusion of PlutoPluto) that we are not used to seeing.
The first of these are his rings. The astronomersastronomers are once again amazed by the space telescope’s ability to discern the most hidden and faint parts of a celestial object. In the case of the icy giant, the last time the rings were seen so well was with the Voyager 2 space probe, when it visited in 1989. Very thin, escorted rings of dust, as you can see see by several moons, like Galatea and Despina. If you look closely, another ring appears, barely visible, near the planet.
The funny colors of Neptune
In these images, the planet itself seems to sparkle like a disco ball in the evening, especially at the highest latitudeslatitudes and to the poles. These are active regions that reflect more than lightlight from SunSun than the rest of theatmosphereatmosphere of Neptune, more homogeneous and dark because of the very absorbing methane.
Other details which will not have escaped the researchers, the presence of ends edgingedging white, very delicate, including one on theequatorequatorand no doubt betray the atmospheric circulationatmospheric circulationas explained in NasaNasa. Presumably from the mattermatter which descends from the colder high latitudes towards the equator and which, as it warms up, shines more in the infrared, wavelengthswavelengths to which James-Webb and his Nircam camera that captured him are sensitive.
Moon Triton shines brighter than Neptune in James-Webb image
What jumps to eyeseyes also in this picture is the moon TritonTritonat the top left of Neptune, brighter than the giant planetgiant planet herself. It even looks like a starstar which dazzles the sensorsensor by James Webb. Which she is not at all, of course. Much smaller than the planet (2,700 kilometers in diameter), Triton is a rocky celestial body that has intrigued astronomers a lot since the overviewoverview of Voyager 2. By appearance and features physicalphysicalwhich are reminiscent of Pluto, because covered with ice ofnitrogennitrogen (which makes it reflect about 70% of the Sun’s light, which is why Triton shines more Neptune in the eyes of the JWST), and also by its orbitorbit around Neptune, they suspect that it comes from the Kuiper beltKuiper belt (between 30 and 50 astronomical unitsastronomical units).
Other, even smaller moons that you may never have heard of are visible in this image. There are seven of the 14 known: Triton, therefore, then much closer, inside the rings of Neptune, there is Galatea, Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, and finally Larissa.
A complementary point of view that changes our usual vision of this giant icy planet, discovered only 176 years ago.