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Emily LakdawallaSeptember 20, 2016

Some beautiful new (old) views of Neptune and Triton

Voyager flybys of the giant planets never get old. Here are three newly processed views of the most distant ice giant, Neptune, and its likely captured Kuiper belt object moon, Triton. First, a global view:

Neptune from Voyager 2

NASA / JPL-Caltech / Justin Cowart

Neptune from Voyager 2
This Voyager 2 Narrow Angle Camera image of Neptune was taken on August 20, 1989 as the spacecraft approached the planet for a flyby on August 25. The Great Dark Spot, flanked by cirrus clouds, is at center. A smaller dark storm, Dark Spot Jr., is rotating into view at bottom left. Additionally, a patch of white cirrus clouds to its north, named "Scooter" for its rapid motion relative to other features, is visible. This image was constructed using orange, green and synthetic violet (50/50 blend of green filter and UV filter images) taken between 626 and 643 UT.

Next, a closeup on the Great Dark Spot. Unlike Jupiter's Great Red Spot, Neptune's Great Spot disappeared after the Voyager flyby. From Earth we have been able to see other spots come and go over the decades.

Neptune's Great Dark Spot

NASA / JPL-Caltech / Justin Cowart

Neptune's Great Dark Spot
Neptune's Great Dark Spot rotating into view of Voyager 2 late on August 23, 1989. This image is a combination of two images narrow angle camera images taken through the spacecraft's green and clear filters to reduce noise. It has been colorized with three wide angle camera images taken through orange, green, and violet filters.

Finally, a departure view, with an appearance by Triton.

Crescent Neptune and Triton

NASA / JPL-Caltech / Justin Cowart

Crescent Neptune and Triton
This OGV (orange, green, and violet filters) color image of Neptune and Triton was captured by Voyager 2 as it departed the Neptune system. This image was taken around 735 UT on August 31, 1989. The small amounts of chromatic aberration around the horns of the crescent Neptune are due to smearing of the images during the long exposures necessary to image Neptune in the low lighting of the outer Solar System.

I'm glad to add Justin Cowart's work to the expanding amateur image library!

Another amateur working with Voyager data is Brian Burns, who's trying to make automatically processed movies from the Voyager flybys and posting the results on his Youtube channel. Here's just one of them, featuring narrow-angle camera images from the Neptune encounter; at about 2:20 you can see Triton sneaking across the field of view as Voyager 2 departs.

Read more: pretty pictures, amateur image processing, Voyager 1 and 2, Triton, Neptune, Neptune's moons

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
Read more articles by Emily Lakdawalla

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