NASA said in a blog post that the James Webb Space Telescope captured stunning images of Jupiter, which show auroras, giant storms, & hazes on our solar system’s largest planet.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which was launched on Christmas Day last year, is the largest optical telescope in space. T the Hubble Space Telescope’s successor,JWST is outfitted with high-resolution equipment that allows it to see objects that the Hubble could not see because they were too far away or too faint.
The JWST is intended to look far back in time to help us understand the origins of our galaxies and the first stars. Scientists must, however, test the onboard equipment before embarking on these missions. To do so, they have been taking pictures of objects in our solar system and learning new things about them.
Auroras and hazes on Jupiter
The JWST photographed Jupiter on July 27 using its Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), which has 3 specialised infrared filters. Scientists had to slightly modify the images and map them to the visible spectrum because infrared light is not visible to the human eye.
Longer wavelengths were depicted towards the red end of the spectrum, while shorter wavelengths were shown near the blue. Multiple images were used to create a single image that captures various phenomena on the planet.
The image shows auroras at high altitudes near the planet’s northern & southern poles, which have been mapped in red color. A different filter that maps colour from yellow to green spectrum shows hazes swirling around the poles, while a third filter shows blue light reflected from deeper clouds.
The Great Red Spot, the planet’s largest storm, appears white in these images. This is also the colour used to depict other clouds on the planet because they reflect a lot of sunlight, according to the blog post.
The Ring of Jupiter
The JWST’s wide-field view of Jupiter also shows faint rings around the planet. According to NASA, the ring is a million times fainter than the planet. Two of the planet’s moons, Amalthea and Adrastea, can also be seen in this image, and the flaky white spots are most likely distant galaxies picked up by the telescope’s sensors.
“We’ve seen many of these features on Jupiter before, but JWST’s infrared wavelengths provide us a new perspective,” said Imke de Pater, a planetary astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley. “JWST’s combination of near- and mid-infrared images & spectra will allow us to study the interplay of dynamics, chemistry, & temperature structure in and above the Great Red Spot & auroral regions.”
The JWST, on the other hand, does not send these images directly to us. Instead, its detectors simply send data about the brightness of captured light to the Space Telescope Science Institute, which processes it and prepares it for distribution in the form shown here. Citizen scientists are sometimes involved in the process, and the images above were processed with the assistance of one such citizen scientist, Judy Schmidt, according to the NASA blog post.