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James Webb photos show Neptune in new light. When was the planet first discovered?

New photos from the powerful James Webb Telescope offer an astoundingly clear view of Neptune's rings.

September 23, 2022 / 03:25 PM IST
The planet Neptune and seven of its 14 known satellites.

The planet Neptune and seven of its 14 known satellites.

New images from the James Webb Space Telescope have put renewed focus on Neptune -- the eight planet in the solar system. For the first time in decades, its rings have been captured in such clear detail.

As the world sees Neptune in a new light, here is a look back on its history.

Neptune was discovered 175 years ago, on the night of September 23-24, 1846, according to NASA.

It all began during observations of the seventh planet Uranus -- that was discovered in 1781. Astronomers detected some irregularities in its orbit which could not be completely explained by Newton’s law of universal gravitation. They suspected a distant planet could be causing them.

In 1845, when Uranus had completed one revolution around the Sun, French astronomer Urbain Jean-Joseph Le Verrier in Paris and Britain's John Couch estimated where the planet causing the disturbance would be situated.

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The next year, German astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle zeroed in the position with a telescope at the Berlin Observatory and became the first person to observe the planet.

In reality, Neptune was found just 1 degree from its calculated position.

In hindsight, the astronomy community realised that Neptune had been spotted as early as 1612 but observers could not recognise it as a planet because of "its slow motion relative to the background stars".
first published: Sep 23, 2022 03:20 pm
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