Sep 21, 2022 - Science

Neptune's rings and moons shine in new JWST photos

Neptune seen in infrared light observed by the James Webb Space Telescope

Neptune seen by the JWST. Photo: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI

Neptune is glowing in a new light in photos taken of the distant planet by the James Webb Space Telescope.

Why it matters: The JWST is designed to catch glimpses of some of the first galaxies to form after the Big Bang, but it could also be transformative for scientists hoping to understand more about the inner-workings of our solar system.

What's happening: The JWST captured Neptune and its moons in infrared light, revealing the planet's rings in amazing detail.

  • "In addition to several bright narrow rings, the Webb images clearly show Neptune’s fainter dust bands," NASA said in a statement. "Webb’s extremely stable and precise image quality also permits these very faint rings to be detected so close to Neptune."
A labeled image of Neptune and its moons seen by the JWST
Neptune and its moons labeled. Photo: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI
  • The new photos also show a bright line around the planet that might indicate the atmospheric circulation that makes the planet's winds blow and allows storms to pop up, NASA added.
  • The JWST also managed to image seven of Neptune's moons including Triton, which looks like a bright green star but is actually the moon thought to be a captured object from Pluto's part of space.

The big picture: Because of the JWST's sensitivity, the telescope will be able to observe weather on our solar system's planets and moons through the course of the telescope's mission.

Go deeper