Neptune and rings shine in photos from new space telescope

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Cape Canaveral, Florida (AP) – Neptune and its rings haven’t looked this good in decades.

NASA released enchanting new snapshots of our outer solar system planet on Wednesday captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. Images taken in July show not only Neptune’s thin rings, but also faint dust bands not previously observed in the infrared, as well as seven of its 14 known moons.

The Web showed Jupiter at its best in a series of new images released last month.

Webb was launched less than a year ago, and the $10 billion Webb spends most of his time digging deeper into the universe. Astronomers hope to go back to roughly the beginning of time when the first stars and galaxies were forming.

NASA’s Voyager 2 was the first spacecraft to see Neptune in all its gaseous glory, during a flight in 1989. No other spacecraft has visited the icy blue planet. It’s been three decades since astronomers last saw these rings in such detail and clarity, said Heidi Hamill of the Space Science Institute, a planetary astronomer working with Webb.

Hamill tweeted that she was crying when she saw the rings screaming and making my kids, mum and even my cat look.

Webb is the world’s largest and most powerful telescope, operating 1 million miles (1.6 million km) from Earth. It was launched into space last December.

The observatory is healthy, according to NASA, with the exception of one element.

NASA reported this week that a mechanism on one of Webb’s instruments showed signs of increased friction late last month in one of four monitoring modes. Observations are pending in this monitoring path, as the review board decides the path forward.

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The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Division of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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