THE LONELY PLANET
Poor Neptune doesn’t get a lot of visitors. To date, Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to visit this distant planet, and the data it gathered inspired this composite image created by Rolf Wahl Olsen.
Backlit by the Sun, some of Neptune’s interesting features are highlighted. Its moon, Triton, is visible close by on the right, as well as its very faint ring system, which was discovered during Voyager’s flyby. A dark band of clouds is visible as a spot right at the pole, with a vortex circling around it.
Due to the dearth of high-resolution images of the Neptunian system, Olsen scoured the freely available data from NASA’s Planetary Data System in order to stitch this lovely image together. By modelling the density based on available data, Olsen was able to fill in gaps where the ring system was too faint to be seen. He also worked out the corresponding position of the background stars and added a view of Triton from Voyager’s passage 3 days after the flyby. By carefully considering his calculations, Olsen was able to create this lovely image that gives us a glimpse of what this mysterious outer planet may have looked like through a slightly different lens.
Image: Assembly/Processing - Rolf Olsen, Data - Voyager 2, NASA Planetary Data System