Glow up

Behold! 9 glorious Neptune images reveal our changing view of the planet

From Voyager to JWST, here are the most stunning portraits of the gas giant.

NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

Last week, a new James Webb Space Telescope image illuminated Neptune in a never-before-seen light.

NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

In the shot, Neptune appears as a glowing orb with its rings fully visible, and its moon Triton (upper left) shimmers nearby.

NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

It’s a drastically different view of the gas giant compared to past images.

That’s because JWST viewed Neptune at near-infrared wavelengths, giving its atmosphere a rosy glow instead of a crisp blue appearance.

NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

The new image is arguably the most stunning portrait of Neptune captured in over 30 years.

In the late 1980s, NASA’s Voyager mission flew closer to Neptune than any spacecraft.

It was during that mission that we got the first — and sharpest — views of Neptune ever captured.

And since then, each new image from ground and space-based telescopes has unveiled new details from the cold, mysterious world.

N. MOLTER/I. DE PATER, UC BERKELEY/C. ALVAREZ, W. M. KECK OBSERVATORY

Here are 9 images that showcase our changing view of Neptune:

NASA/JPL

NASA/JPL

9. In 1989, Voyager 2 captured one of the first-ever dettailed pictures of Neptune from 35 million miles away.

Pre-Voyager Neptune pictures weren’t much more than points of light.

NASA/JPL

8. The planet’s rings could be seen as the spacecraft got closer, shown in this image from the same year.

7. In what’s perhaps the most famous image of Neptune, Voyager 2 snapped this picture from 4.4 million miles away.

NASA/JPL

NASA/JPL

6. This close-up Voyager 2 shot reveals high-altitude clouds on the gas giant, pictured in white.

5. Voyager also captured the planet in false color.

NASA/JPL

4. Since Voyager, a number of ground-based telescopes have imaged Neptune. This photo was taken by scientists at the W.M. Keck Observatory in 2017.

N. MOLTER/I. DE PATER, UC BERKELEY/C. ALVAREZ, W. M. KECK OBSERVATORY

ESO/P. Weilbacher (AIP)

3. And here’s a snapshot from the ESA’s Very Large Telescope, captured in 2018.

2. The Hubble Space Telescope imaged Neptune in 2021, revealing growing dark spots over its north and south poles.

NASA, ESA, Amy Simon (NASA-GSFC), Michael H. Wong (UC Berkeley), Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

1. Today, JWST’s vantage point makes it best equipped to view the distant world.