Surprising details emerge from crisp new images from Jupiter’s James Webb Space Telescope

Unexpected details pop up in crisp new images from Jupiter's James Webb Space Telescope

Images of Jupiter taken by the James Webb Space Telescope display an astonishing wealth of detail. A filter sensitive to auroral emission from ionized hydrogen (mapped in the red channel) reveals auroral ovals on the planet’s disk that extend high above the north and south poles. A different filter sensitive to high-altitude haze (mapped in the green channel) highlights polar haze swirling around the north and south poles, while a third filter highlights light reflected from the deeper main cloud ( mapped in the blue channel). The Great Red Spot, equatorial region, and compact cloud regions (including tiny ones) appear white (or reddish-white) in this false-color image. Regions with little cloud cover appear as dark ribbons north of the equatorial region. Other dark regions here, both adjacent to the Great Red Spot and within the Southern Hemisphere cyclonic features, are also dark in color when viewed in visible light. Credit: NASA, European Space Agency, Jupiter Early Release Science team. Image processing: Judy Schmidt

The latest images of Jupiter from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) are stunning.

Captured on July 27, the infrared images – artificially colored to bring out specific features – show a fine watermark along the edges of the colored bands and around the Great Red Spot and also offer an unprecedented view of auroras over the poles. North and South.

A wide-field image shows a unique range of the planet, its faint rings and two of Jupiter’s smallest satellites – Amalthea and Adrastea – against a backdrop of galaxies.

“We’ve never seen Jupiter like this. It’s pretty amazing,” said planetary astronomer Imke de Pater, professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, who led science observations of the planet with Thierry. Fouchet, professor at the University of Paris. Observatory. “To be honest, we didn’t really expect it to be this good. It’s really remarkable that we can see details of Jupiter with its rings, tiny satellites and even galaxies in a single image.”

De Pater, Fouchet and their team released the images today (August 22) as part of the telescope’s Early Release Science program.

  • Unexpected details pop up in crisp new images from Jupiter's James Webb Space Telescope

    This false-color composite image of Jupiter was obtained with the NIRCam instrument aboard the James Webb Space Telescope on July 27, 2022. The widefield color palette differs from the color composite because this mode of imaging used d different exposure and only two filters, mapped in orange and cyan colors. The image shows the rings of Jupiter and some of its smaller satellites with galaxies in the background. Amalthea (~250 x 150 km in diameter) and tiny Adrastea (~20 km in diameter) are visible in this image. The diffraction pattern created by the bright auroras, together with the moon Io (just to the left, not visible in the image), form a complex background of scattered light around Jupiter. Credit: NASA, European Space Agency, Jupiter Early Release Science team. Image processing: Ricardo Hueso [UPV/EHU] and Judy Schmidt

  • Unexpected details pop up in crisp new images from Jupiter's James Webb Space Telescope

    This composite false-color image of Jupiter was obtained with the James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam instrument on July 27, 2022. A combination of short and long exposures in F212N (mapped to orange color) and F335M (mapped to cyan) shows Jupiter’s rings and some of its smaller satellites with background galaxies. Amalthea (~250 x 150 km in diameter) and tiny Adrastea (~20 km in diameter) are visible in this image. The diffraction pattern created by the bright auroras, together with the moon Io (just to the left, not visible in the image), form a complex background of scattered light around Jupiter. Credit: NASA, European Space Agency, Jupiter Early Release Science team. Image processing: Ricardo Hueso [UPV/EHU] and Judy Schmidt

In addition to the huge storm called the Great Red Spot, numerous storm systems – seen as small pale ovals – are also visible, as are tiny bright plumes of cloud particles. The transition between organized zonal flows and chaotic vortex patterns at higher latitudes is also clearly visible.

“While we’ve seen many of these features before on Jupiter, JWST’s infrared wavelengths give us a new perspective,” said de Pater. “Combining images and spectra from JWST at near and mid-infrared wavelengths will allow us to study the interplay of temperature dynamics, chemistry, and structure in and above the Great Red Spot and auroral regions.”

Amalthea and Adrastea

JWST’s near-infrared camera (NIRCam) also captured a wide-field view 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 light waves, whirlpools and whirlpools in Jupiter’s atmosphere and simultaneously captures the dark ring system, 1 million times fainter than the planet, and the moons Amalthea and Adrastea, which measure approximately 200 and 20 kilometers across an image sums up 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 many co-investigators in the Early Release Science (ERS) program and leads NIRCam observations of Jupiter’s atmosphere.

Schmidt’s love of astronomy images led her to deal with images of nebulae, globular clusters, stellar nurseries and more spectacular cosmic objects.

“Something about it stuck in my mind, 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 close to what your eye can see.”

Spectroscopic observations of Jupiter’s aurorae are scheduled for later this year, while detailed spectroscopic observations of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot were taken July 27 in the near infrared and August 14-15 in the wavelengths of mid-infrared. The Great Red Spot observations are a joint project between 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 observations of Jupiter carried out by Leigh Fletcher, professor at the University of Leicester in England.

Other members of the UC Berkeley ERS team for Jupiter observations are research astronomer Mike Wong and postdoctoral fellow Ned Molter.


NASA releases Webb images of Jupiter


Provided by University of California – Berkeley

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