NASA released new images of Jupiter on Monday, taken by the James Webb Space Telescope.
The infrared images show detailed views of the gas giant’s auroras, rings and moons.
The telescope is in orbit 1 million miles from Earth, with the aim of capturing light from distant galaxies.
Astronomers’ new eye on the sky, the James Webb Space Telescope, has already captured images of the most distant galaxies ever seen. Now, the powerful infrared observatory is providing mind-blowing views of our own cosmic neighborhood in snapshots released by NASA on Monday.
Images of Jupiter, captured on July 27, show the planet’s turbulent atmosphere, with the gas giant’s Great Red Spot — a massive storm that has been swirling for centuries — along with other storm systems. The telescope also spotted Jupiter’s thin rings made of dust particles from debris, auroras visible at Jupiter’s north and south poles, and two of the planet’s moons, Amalthea and Adrastea. The diffuse patches in the background are galaxies, according to NASA.
“We really didn’t expect it to be this good, to be honest,” Imke de Pater, a planetary scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who led the scientific observations of the planet, said in a statement. “It’s really remarkable that we can see detail on Jupiter along with its rings, small satellites and even galaxies in one image.”
Often described as the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, Webb launched on December 25, 2021, after more than two decades of development. Since then, the $10 billion telescope has traveled more than 1 million miles from Earth and is now parked in a gravitationally stable orbit, collecting infrared light. By collecting infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye, Webb is able to slice through cosmic dust and see into the distant past, right up to the first 400 million years after the Big Bang.
Webb captured the new images of Jupiter using his Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) filter. The images were artificially colored to highlight specific features, such as the planet’s dazzling aurora.
“These newly released JWST images of Jupiter are driving me crazy,” said James O’Donoghue, planetary scientist at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, in twitter. “Incredible details of the turbulent atmosphere, auroras at the poles, rings that encircle the planet, small moons and even some galaxies in the background!”
Auroras are colorful displays of light that are not unique to Earth. Jupiter has the brightest auroras in the solar system, according to NASA. On both Earth and Jupiter, auroras occur when charged particles such as protons or electrons interact with the magnetic field – known as the magnetosphere – that surrounds a planet. Jupiter’s magnetic field is about 20,000 times stronger than Earth’s.
“This image summarizes the science of our Jupiter system program, which studies the dynamics and chemistry of Jupiter itself, its rings and its satellite system,” said Thierry Fouchet, a professor of astronomy at the Paris Observatory who led the observations, in a statement. declaration.
The raw data collected during the telescope’s commissioning period, before its science operations officially began on July 12, also included an image of Jupiter.
“Combined with the deep-field images released the other day, these images of Jupiter demonstrate the full understanding of what Webb can observe, from the faintest and most distant observable galaxies to planets in our own cosmic backyard that you can see with the eye. naked from your real backyard,” said Bryan Holler, a scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, who helped plan the observations, in a statement in July.
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