The most recent images from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) are showing Neptune “in a whole new light,” according to NASA, who published the latest offerings of its $10 billion space-travelling observatory on Wednesday.
Before it captured Neptune on camera, the JWST was impressing the public with stellar photography of nebulas and galaxies in deep space. Now, it has turned its gaze back inwards to our solar system and captured a shot that might challenge your perception of the distant ice giant.
The Neptune system labelled with seven of its 14 known moons, captured by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera.
NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI via AP
NASA says it is planning on studying Neptune and Triton again with the Webb telescope.
The image also shows an “intriguing brightness” at Neptune’s northern pole, a portion of the planet that is just out of view to astronomers because of Neptune’s 164-year orbit. Neptune’s southern pole is facing Webb and the image shows a previously-known vortex there, but reveals that there’s a “continuous band of high altitude clouds surrounding it.”
The JWST is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, which has not only provided stunning images, but has also been vital in providing scientific knowledge about our universe and its origins.
The JWST has a much larger primary mirror than Hubble (2.7 times larger in diameter, or about six times larger in area), giving it more light-gathering power and greatly improved sensitivity over the Hubble.
When the JWST launched on Christmas Day 2021, there were no second chances — its extremely distant location in the solar system makes it impossible for human crews to visit for repairs.
Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s science mission chief, said that with the new telescope, the cosmos is “giving up secrets that had been there for many, many decades, centuries, millennia.”
“It’s not an image. It’s a new worldview that you’re going to see,” he said during a media briefing in July.
— with files from Global News’ Michelle Butterfield
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