The infrared photo of Neptune captured by the James Webb Space Telescope shook astronomy fans on Wednesday after it was revealed by NASA. Revolutionary to say the least, this infrared process raises questions about how astrophysicists might discover or photograph the still unknown parts of our galaxy.
This technology surpasses that of the Hubble Space Telescope, which revolutionized NASA when it was launched in 1990. According to Montreal Planetarium director and astrophysicist Olivier Hernandez, the James Webb telescope is innovative in its mechanics. “The James Webb Telescope has several instruments, and some of them can go very, very far. This actually allows us to study the planets, comets, asteroids and also the dust around these protoplanetary disks much better,” explains Mr. Hernandez in an interview with Le Devoir.
Thanks to James Webb and his NIRCam instrument, NASA captured the clearest image of the most distant planet in the Solar System, Neptune, on Wednesday. The most experienced telescopes and astronomers had not drawn such a clear portrait of the frozen planet since 1989, the brief and only pass of a probe, Voyager 2, near Neptune.
The peculiarity of the James Webb Space Telescope also lies in the fact that it is “really positioned outside the Earth’s atmosphere and in this sense it obtains much more precise images because we do not have to correct for the movements of the atmosphere that are in fact due to temperature variations” , adds Olivier Hernandez.
Positioned in Earth’s atmosphere, the telescope would be blurred by light pollution. It will not be able to pass through the matter surrounding space’s atmosphere, such as water and certain other elements. Hubble captures only the UV and naked-eye visible spectra, while James Webb’s infrared technology goes from near to far, transcending elements not visible to the naked eye.
The future of space photography
In addition to Neptune’s never-before-seen gas rings, viewers can admire the seven moons (Galatea, Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Proteus, Larissa, and Triton) of the fourteen moons that surround the icy planet. In addition, Triton, which resembles a small star due to its brilliance. Larger than the dwarf planet Pluto, it also appears brighter than Neptune due to the reflection of sunlight off its icy surface. The image also shows “strange light” at one of Neptune’s poles, NASA said in a statement.
As for the future of space photography, “the beauty of it is that we probably don’t even know about the project that will revolutionize astronomy,” says Mr. Hernandez.
“We are convinced that within 10 years we will have discovered new levels of astronomy, or at least new ways of looking at our universe, which are likely to be very different from what we know now,” admits the astrophysicist.
With Agence France-Presse