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

Webb’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) captures images of objects in the 0.6 to 5 micron near infrared range (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 show the rings around the planet for the first time since the Voyager 2 mission flew by 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’s 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, Neptune system expert and Webb project interdisciplinary scientist.

Webb's Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) captures images of objects in the 0.6 to 5 micron near infrared range (NASA)

Webb’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) captures images of objects in the 0.6 to 5 micron near infrared range (NASA)

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

In the latest images from the Webb project, the planet appears grayish-white with stippled clouds on the surface.

The image also shows seven of Neptune’s 14 moons, including Triton, which shines brightly like a star as it is made of frozen and condensed nitrogen, reflecting a lot of sunlight.

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

Stunning 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 London's Piccadilly Lights display.  Experts say the first 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 London’s Piccadilly Lights display. Experts say the first 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 conspicuous when viewed with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in near-infrared light, plays a secondary role in sculpting the surrounding nebula.  A second star, faintly visible at lower left along one of the bright stars' diffraction peaks, is the source of the nebulae.  It has expelled at least eight layers of gas and dust over thousands of years (NASA)

The bright star at the center of NGC 3132, while conspicuous when viewed with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in near-infrared light, plays a secondary role in sculpting the surrounding nebula. A second star, faintly visible at lower left along one of the bright stars’ diffraction peaks, is the source of the nebulae. It has expelled at least eight layers of gas and dust over thousands of years (NASA)

A person takes a video of the giant screens showing images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope in Times Square (AFP via Getty Images)

A person takes a video of the giant screens showing images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope in Times Square (AFP via Getty Images)

The landscape of mountains and valleys dotted with bright stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula (Getty Images/2022 NASA)

The landscape of mountains and valleys dotted with bright 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 the Stephans Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, in a new light (Getty Images)

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals the Stephans Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, in a new light (Getty Images)

Images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope are shown on screens in Times Square (AFP via Getty Images)

Images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope are shown on screens in Times Square (AFP via Getty Images)

President Biden previews the first color image from the Webb Space Telescope (NASA via Getty Images)

President Biden previews the first color image from the Webb Space Telescope (NASA via Getty Images)

The 'deepest' and most detailed image of the cosmos to date (PA Media)

The ‘deepest’ and most detailed image of the cosmos to date (PA Media)

Images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope are shown on screens in Times Square (AFP via Getty Images)

Images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope are shown on screens in Times Square (AFP via Getty Images)

Images released by NASA show a side-by-side comparison of observations of the South Ring Nebula in near-infrared light, left, and mid-infrared light, right, from the Webb Telescope (AP)

Images released by NASA show a side-by-side comparison of observations of the South Ring Nebula in near-infrared light, left, and mid-infrared light, right, from the Webb Telescope (AP)

Mark McCaughrean, Senior Adviser for Science and Exploration at the European Space Agency added: “The kind of astronomy we are seeing now was unimaginable five years ago.

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

“But suddenly starting to see things at these longer wavelengths, which were previously impossible, is absolutely extraordinary.”

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