Surprising details pop out in sharp new James Webb Space Telescope images of Jupiter
The latest images of Jupiter from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) are stunning.
The infrared images, captured on July 27, artificially colored to highlight specific features, show fine filigree along the edges of the colored bands and around the Great Red Spot, and also provide an unprecedented view of the auroras over the north and south. south pole.
A wide-angle image shows a unique arrangement of the planet, its faint rings and two of Jupiter’s smaller satellites – Amalthea and Adrastea – against a background of galaxies.
“We’ve never seen Jupiter like this. It’s all pretty incredible,” said planetary astronomer Imke de Pater, a professor emerita at the University of California, Berkeley, who works with Thierry Fouchet, a professor at the Paris Observatory. “We honestly didn’t expect it to be this good. It’s really remarkable that we can see details on Jupiter along with its rings, small satellites and even galaxies in one image.”
De Pater, Fouchet and their team released the images today (Aug. 22) as part of the telescope’s Early Release Science program.
In addition to the massive storm called the Great Red Spot, numerous storm systems — seen as small pale ovals — are visible, as well as tiny bright plumes of cloud particles. The transition between organized zonal flows and the chaotic vortex patterns at higher latitudes is also clearly visible.
“While we’ve seen many of these features on Jupiter before, JWST’s infrared wavelengths give us a new perspective,” de Pater said. “JWST’s combination of images and spectra at near- and mid-infrared wavelengths allows us to study the interplay of dynamics, chemistry and temperature structure in and above the Great Red Spot and the aurorae regions.”
Amalthea and Adrastea
JWST’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) also captured a wide-angle image of Jupiter, revealing its rings and two of its moons.
“This image illustrates the sensitivity and dynamic range of JWST’s NIRCam instrument,” Fouchet said. “It reveals the bright waves, vortices and eddies in Jupiter’s atmosphere while also capturing the dark ring system, which is 1 million times fainter than the planet, as well as the moons Amalthea and Adrastea, which are about 200 and 20 kilometers across, respectively. one image summarizes the science of our Jupiter system program, which studies the dynamics and chemistry of Jupiter itself, its rings and its satellite system.”
The JWST images were processed with the help of citizen scientist Judy Schmidt of Modesto, California, who has worked with the Hubble Space Telescope and other telescope images for the past 10 years, and Ricardo Hueso, who studies planetary atmospheres at the University of the Basque Country in Spain. Hueso is one of the many co-investigators of the Early Release Science (ERS) program and is leading the NIRCam observations of Jupiter’s atmosphere.
Schmidt’s love of astronomical images has led her to process images of nebulae, globular clusters, stellar nurseries and more spectacular cosmic objects.
“Something about it just stayed with me, and I can’t stop. I could spend hours and hours every day,” she said. Her goal, she added, is to “…try to make it look natural, even if it’s not something close to what your eye can see.”
Spectroscopic observations of Jupiter’s auroras are scheduled for later this year, while detailed spectroscopic observations of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot were made July 27 in the near-infrared and August 14-15 at mid-infrared wavelengths. The Great Red Spot observations are a joint project of the Early Release Science (ERS) team – with de Pater and Fouchet as co-principal investigators – and a program of solar system observations developed by Heidi Hammel of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), with the Jupiter observations led by Leigh Fletcher, a professor at the University of Leicester in England.
Other UC Berkeley members of the ERS Jupiter observations team include research astronomer Mike Wong and postdoctoral researcher Ned Molter.
NASA releases Webb images of Jupiter
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