The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has now revealed the first image of Neptune in decades that shows outer space’s ice giant planet and its icy rings in remarkable detail.
It’s the best image of the planet’s icy rings in 32 years, according to the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA).
AURA’s planetary scientist Heidi Hammel said, “It has been three decades since we last saw those faint, dusty bands, and this is the first time we’ve seen them in the infrared.”
Astronomers did note that Neptune’s characteristic blue color does appear to be missing from the JWST image.
The blue color is caused by methane gas in the planet’s atmosphere, Space.com reported.
Astronomers said that, compared to other gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn, Neptune is much “richer in elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. This is readily apparent in Neptune’s signature blue appearance in Hubble Space Telescope images at visible wavelengths, caused by small amounts of gaseous methane.”