NASA releases ‘remarkable’ images of Neptune’s rings seen for first time in infrared

Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) images objects in the near-infrared range from 0.6 to 5 microns (NASA)
Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) images objects in the near-infrared range from 0.6 to 5 microns (NASA)

NASA has released new images of Neptune’s planetary rings in what has been heralded as some of the clearest shots of the planet in decades.

The images were taken from the James Webb Space Telescope and shows the rings around the planet for the first time since the Voyager 2 mission flew past the ice giant in 1989.

Not only is the planet seen in dazzlingly clear images but the dust rings surrounding the ice giant are also faintly visible.

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

Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) images objects in the near-infrared range from 0.6 to 5 microns (NASA)
Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) images objects in the near-infrared range from 0.6 to 5 microns (NASA)

In 1989, the planet was shown to be a blue singular object without its rings visible.

In the latest pictures from the Webb project, the planet is seen as greyish white with clouds dotted across the surface.

The image also shows seven of Neptune’s 14 moons, including Triton which shines brightly as a star as it is made up of frozen, condensed nitrogen, which reflects a large amount of sunlight.

The Webb telescope is the most powerful of its kind ever built giving astronomers the ability to analyse data never seen before since its launch last year.

Amazing images from the James Webb Space Telescope

Nasa broadcasts the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope, the world’s most advanced space telescope on the Piccadilly Lights screen in London. Experts say early observations are expected to change the face of astronomy forever (PA)
Nasa broadcasts the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope, the world’s most advanced space telescope on the Piccadilly Lights screen in London. Experts say early observations are expected to change the face of astronomy forever (PA)
The dawn of a new era in astronomy has begun as the world gets its first look at the full capabilities of the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope (ESA/Webb/AFP via Getty Images)
The dawn of a new era in astronomy has begun as the world gets its first look at the full capabilities of the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope (ESA/Webb/AFP via Getty Images)
The bright star at the center of NGC 3132, while prominent when viewed by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in near-infrared light, plays a supporting role in sculpting the surrounding nebula. A second star, barely visible at lower left along one of the bright stars diffraction spikes, is the nebulas source. It has ejected at least eight layers of gas and dust over thousands of years (NASA)
The bright star at the center of NGC 3132, while prominent when viewed by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in near-infrared light, plays a supporting role in sculpting the surrounding nebula. A second star, barely visible at lower left along one of the bright stars diffraction spikes, is the nebulas source. It has ejected at least eight layers of gas and dust over thousands of years (NASA)
A person takes a video of the gians screens displaying images captured by The James Webb Space Telescope in Times Square (AFP via Getty Images)
A person takes a video of the gians screens displaying images captured by The James Webb Space Telescope in Times Square (AFP via Getty Images)
Landscape of mountains and valleys speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula (Getty Images/2022 NASA )
Landscape of mountains and valleys speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula (Getty Images/2022 NASA )
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals Stephans Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, in a new light (Getty Images)
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals Stephans Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, in a new light (Getty Images)
Images captured by The James Webb Space Telescope are displayed on screens at Times Squar (AFP via Getty Images)
Images captured by The James Webb Space Telescope are displayed on screens at Times Squar (AFP via Getty Images)
President Biden previews the first colour Image from Webb Space Telescope (NASA via Getty Images)
President Biden previews the first colour Image from Webb Space Telescope (NASA via Getty Images)
The ‘deepest’ and most detailed picture of the cosmos to date (PA Media)
The ‘deepest’ and most detailed picture of the cosmos to date (PA Media)
Images captured by The James Webb Space Telescope are displayed on screens at Times Square (AFP via Getty Images)
Images captured by The James Webb Space Telescope are displayed on screens at Times Square (AFP via Getty Images)
Images released by Nasa shows a side-by-side comparison of observations of the Southern Ring Nebula in near-infrared light, at left, and mid-infrared light, at right, from the Webb Telescope (AP)
Images released by Nasa shows a side-by-side comparison of observations of the Southern Ring Nebula in near-infrared light, at left, and mid-infrared light, at right, from the Webb Telescope (AP)

Mark McCaughrean, a senior adviser for science and exploration at the European Space Agency added: “The kind of astronomy we’re seeing now was unimaginable five years ago.

“Of course, we knew that it would do this, we built it to do this, it is exactly the machine we designed.

“But to suddenly start seeing things in these longer wavelengths, which were impossible before it’s just absolutely remarkable.”