Ringed Saturn by Webb Space Telescope

Famed ringed Saturn captured by Janes Webb Space Telescope in its first near-infrared observations, on June 25, 2023.

The initial imagery from Webb’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) is already fascinating to researchers.

Saturn itself appears extremely dark at this infrared wavelength observed by the telescope, as methane gas absorbs almost all of the sunlight falling into the atmosphere. However, the icy rings stay relatively bright, leading to the unusual appearance of Saturn in the Webb image.

This image was taken as part of Webb Guaranteed Time Observation program 1247. The program included several very deep exposures of Saturn, which were designed to test the telescope’s capacity to detect faint moons around the planet and its bright rings. Any newly discovered moons could garner important clues about the flow of material in the current Saturn system, as well as its past history.

4 giant planets by Webb
The 4 giant planets by Janes Webb Space Telescope.  Credit NASA

Image credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, Matthew Tiscareno (SETI Institute), Matthew Hedman (University of Idaho), Maryame El Moutamid (Cornell University), Mark Showalter (SETI Institute), Leigh Fletcher (University of Leicester), Heidi Hammel (AURA)
Image Processing: Joseph DePasquale (STScI)