back to article The years were worth the wait. JWST gives us an amazing view of Neptune's rings

The James Webb Space Telescope has snapped the clearest picture of Neptune, capturing its dust rings and seven moons, in more than 30 years. Neptune, designated the furthest planet in the Solar System after Pluto was demoted to a dwarf world in 2006, is more than 2.6 billion miles away from Earth. The only spacecraft to visit …

  1. Danny 2

    A cloud in a kilt

    I was asked on an American forum what my favourite present was, I replied the ISS. I had an app on my phone that alerted me when it was overhead and would show me it's cameras of where I live. Except I live in Scotland so I only ever saw the topside of the cloud above me.

    Somebody smart once said that an intelligent species on a world with a dense atmosphere might not realise space exists and so would never think to explore it. Even in Scotland we see the sky sometimes, just never when the ISS is overhead. I deleted the app. I'm curious if the James Webb space telescope can see my home town on a day like this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A cloud in a kilt

      "Somebody smart once said that an intelligent species on a world with a dense atmosphere might not realise space exists and so would never think to explore it."

      Yep, like the Masters of Cricket, in Douglas Addams' "Life, the Universe and Everything".

      If you're in the UK, mate, you have no excuse for not having read it already !

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: A cloud in a kilt

        They flew out of the cloud.

        They saw the staggering jewels of the night in their infinite dust and their minds sang with fear.

        "It'll have to go," the men of Krikkit said as they headed back for home.

        On the way back home they sang a number of tuneful and reflective songs on the subjects of peace, justice, morality, culture, sport, family life, and the obliteration of all other life forms.

      2. Danny 2

        Re: A cloud in a kilt

        Oh, I've read it, even listened to the Radio 4 series, but now my eyesight is poor so I can't reread it. I'm grateful for you lot filling in the potholes in my memory. To be honest I think that was one of the many pre-existing ideas that Adams righteously recycled.

        I think I mentioned I've been a bit poorly lately, like death's door poorly without the strength to knock (why don't they have a doorbell?) and last week was feeling self pity. I watched Frozen Planet 2 and fell asleep to Wonders of the Universe by Brian Cox, like being hugged by my mum and cuddled by my first love at the same time. They should play that constantly on hospital radio.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: A cloud in a kilt

      No the James Webb telescope will never deliberately look at the Earth as the heat from it and the sun would basically fuck it up big time. So even Scotland is too hot for it!

    3. Bill Gray

      Re: A cloud in a kilt

      I think the idea that denizens of a cloudy planet wouldn't know about space was common in science fiction before the Mariner 2 flyby in 1962, when it was still thought that Venus might be a hot, swampy, inhabited planet. The only two examples I can think of are :

      - _Tumithak of the Corridors_, written in the 1930s (humans land on Venus, are immediately killed, Venusians realize there's an outside universe, build spaceships and invade Earth). Don't remember the author.

      - Don't remember the title, but Heinlein wrote a story in the 1940s in which humans have colonized the poles of Venus, the equator being uninhabitably hot. One character explains to another that the natives near the north pole think humans came from the south pole, and vice versa; tell them about Earth, and they think you're explaining your religion.

      Both predate Douglas Adam's fine work, and I think Asimov and/or Clarke may have touched on this subject as well.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yes indeedy

        Yup - Asimov at least, with - "Not Final!" (1941) and its sequel "Victory Unintentional" (1942).

        1. Cuddles

          Re: Yes indeedy

          Doesn't even need the clouds; Asimov's "Nightfall" has essentially the same premise of a civilisation not realising the rest of the universe exists due to their planet being in a system with six suns so they never experience darkness.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Yes indeedy

            The key point in the plot of "Nightfall" is that they rarely experience darkness – not "never".

      2. Paul Kinsler

        Re: Tumithak of the Corridors

        Hah, I've read that; I have an old "Golden Years of SF" (or similar title) volume edited by Asimov with that story in; I'd check for you but I'm not sure whereabouts it is. The sequel "T of Shawm" appears in vol.2, I think.

      3. jj_0

        Re: A cloud in a kilt

        Thumitak of the Corridors by Charles R. Tanner

    4. DS999 Silver badge

      They would explore space

      They would figure out something exists beyond what they can see once they had the ability to detect different wavelengths and could see their Sun as a disc instead of diffuse light, and certain stars/galaxies as radio and gamma point sources.

      That would drive them to launch rockets above their cloud layer - and they would just be astonished at what they saw! And how big it was when they did their first parallax measurements.

      If their dominant religion held that their planet was all there was in creation, such discoveries when they were at a level of technological development where nuclear weapons were a possibility could be problematic. Imagine the Crusades fought with H bombs.

    5. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: A cloud in a kilt

      Isaac Asimov wrote quite a good short story (later he made it into a novel) about a planet orbiting multiple suns which resulted in the inhabitants only experiencing a dark night once every two thousand years or so.


  2. Jude Bradley

    I believe it's called Krikket,but yes, it was the first thing that came to mind.

    1. elbisivni

      Krikkit, even. And yes, same.

      1. A. Coatsworth Silver badge

        Came to say the same thing but several people were ahead.

        So, Pangalactic Gargle Blasters for all!

  3. AlanSh

    Just needs oiling

    Did they not think to pack some WD40 when they launched it?

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Just needs oiling

      You spray WD40 on your ring?

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Just needs oiling

        When they say its a grating wheel is it a wheel that moves a grating or is it one that is grating?

        1. Jedit Silver badge

          Re: Just needs oiling

          Neither, it's one of those things that you put cheese into and turn a handle.

          1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

            Re: it's one of those things that you put cheese into and turn a handle.

            Better make sure it doesn't get too close to the moon then.

            We don't want more moons than Neptune.

        2. DrSunshine0104

          Re: Just needs oiling

          I wasn't certain it wasn't a typo, I read it at gating at first.

          At least from the description of its function gating seems more appropriate.

      2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Just needs oiling

        At some point in the none too distant future, JWST, will be pointing at Uranus

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Just needs oiling

          Whew. I was worried I'd go through the whole first page of comments on a Reg astronomy piece and not see a Uranus joke.

          1. Jedit Silver badge

            Re: Just needs oiling

            I'd hate to be the butt of that joke.

  4. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

    Why are we looking at junk in our backyard when the aliens are in the Andromeda galaxy? I suppose if you looked at one red-shifted ancient galaxy you've seen them all and boredom has set in. Maybe they should try to catch a meteorite with that big mirror.

    (Disclaimer: I find JWST fascinating. Been following this since it was just a pile of parts in a clean room).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Maybe they should try to catch a meteorite with that big mirror.

      They've already done that too.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Eh, there are plenty of days when I'd rather look at junk in my backyard than at my neighbors.

  5. ridley

    "Neptune is rich in heavier elements, and looks blue due to small amounts of methane in its atmosphere."

    I am pretty sure that the JWST cannot see blue light and any blue in the image will be a false colour added for the benefit of us meat bags.

  6. aks

    "click here for a closeup"

    This ends up with a 404

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