With its first image of Neptune, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope displays its capabilities closer to home.
In addition to providing the best glimpse of the planet's rings in more than 30 years, Webb's cameras also shed new insight on the ice giant.
The clarity of the planet's rings, some of which have not been seen since NASA's Voyager 2 became the first spacecraft to examine.
Neptune during its approach in 1989, is what stands out most in Webb's latest photograph
The Webb image vividly displays Neptune's fainter dust bands in addition to many brilliant, narrow rings.
Neptune is substantially richer in elements heavier than hydrogen and helium than the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn.
Small concentrations of gaseous methane enable Neptune to appear characteristically blue in Hubble Space Telescope photos at visible wavelengths.
Against a pitch-black sky, Neptune appears shimmering and opalescent as seen by the Webb telescope, with whitish rings.
Neptune does not seem blue to Webb because his Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) only sees objects in the near-infrared spectrum between 0.6 and 5 microns.
In the upcoming year, more Webb observations of Triton and Neptune are anticipated.