Neptune and Moons
Date: 30 Apr 2005
Hubble Space Telescope images of the distant planet Neptune show a dynamic atmosphere and capture the fleeting orbits of its satellites.
Images were taken in 14 different colored filters probing various altitudes in Neptune's deep atmosphere so that scientists can study the haze and clouds in detail.
The natural-color view of Neptune (to left), common to naked eye telescopic views by amateur astronomers, reveals a cyan colored planet. Methane gas in Neptune's atmosphere absorbs most of the red sunlight hitting the planet, making it look blue-green. The image was created by combining images in red, green and blue light.
Neptune's subtle features are more visible in the enhanced-color view (top right). Images taken in special methane filters show details not visible to the human eye (bottom right). The features seen in this enhanced image must be above most of the sunlight-absorbing methane to be detectable through these special filters.
The planet is so dark at the methane wavelengths that long exposures can be taken, revealing some of Neptune's smaller moons. Clockwise from the top (in composite image at left), these moons are Proteus (the brightest), Larissa, Despina, and Galatea.
Last Update: 16 Jun 2011 (AMB)