• Webb has captured the "clearest" views of Neptune's rings in over 30 years
  • It's not as blue because it was taken in the near-infrared range
  • In a zoomed-out image, its large moon Triton looks almost like a star

The James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) has captured a stunning image that shows Neptune "in a whole new light."

Neptune may not be at the top of people's list when they're thinking of ringed planets in our solar system, but it actually has several faint rings. In the new image captured by Webb, one can clearly see its stunning rings that look rather "ghostly" in the clearest views of them in decades.

"Hey Neptune. Did you ring?" Webb's Twitter account noted. "Webb's latest image is the clearest look at Neptune's rings in 30+ years, and our first time seeing them in infrared light."

In another image, one can see a side-by-side comparison of the images taken by Voyager 2 in 1989, which was the first-ever spacecraft to observe the planet and the only one to have actually visited it, the Hubble Space Telescope recently in 2021, and the new image by Webb.

One can see just how differently Neptune looks, with the Voyager 2 and Hubble images looking strikingly blue, but the Webb image looking quite ethereal. As NASA explained, this is because the images were captured by its Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) instrument, which observed it in near-infrared wavelengths.

"In fact, the methane gas so strongly absorbs red and infrared light that the planet is quite dark at these near-infrared wavelengths, except where high-altitude clouds are present," the agency noted.

Zooming out of the image also provides yet another stunning view, as it shows seven of Neptune's 14 moons, all of which are named after sea gods and nymphs in Greek mythology. In the image, Galatea, Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Proteus and Larissa look like small dots surrounding the planet. But its massive moon, Triton, is so bright that it almost looks like a star.

Neptune was discovered in 1846, but we still haven't explored it as much as other planets in our solar system. It's also the only planet in the solar system that's not visible to the naked eye from Earth.

According to NASA, these new images show the ice giant "in a whole new light," revealing features previously observed and others that haven't been seen before.

"A previously-known vortex at the southern pole is evident in Webb's view, but for the first time Webb has revealed a continuous band of high-latitude clouds surrounding it," the agency said.

This adds to the incredible science that Webb has provided since it started operations. Only recently, for instance, it captured stunning images of the Orion Nebula and even observed the sandy clouds on a brown dwarf.

NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft took this image of Neptune while passing through the outer solar system. The ice giant’s Great Dark Spot and the companion bright smudge are visible, as well as other streaks and spots. NASA/JPL