New James Webb Space Telescope photos of Jupiter show stunning auroras, faint rings and tiny moons

Webb NIRCam composite image of Jupiter.

The James Webb Space Telescope NIRCam composite image of Jupiter on July 27, 2022.NASA, ESA, Jupiter ERS Team. Image editing by Judy Schmidt

  • 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 halos, rings and moons.

  • The telescope is in orbit 1 million miles from Earth, aiming to capture light from distant galaxies.

Astronomers’ new eye in 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 stunning views of our own cosmic neighborhood in snapshots released by NASA on Monday.

The images of Jupiter, taken on July 27, show the planet’s turbulent atmosphere, with the gas giant’s Great Red Spot – a huge 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, visible auroras at Jupiter’s north and south poles, and two of the planet’s moons, Amalthea and Adrastea. The fuzzy spots in the background are galaxies, according to NASA.

“We didn’t really expect it to be this good, to be honest,” Imke de Pater, a planetary scientist at the University of California, Berkeley who led the science observations of the planet, said in a statement. “It’s really remarkable that we can see details of Jupiter along with its rings, tiny moons and even its galaxies in one image.”

Webb captured a wide view where he can see Jupiter with its faint rings, which are a million times fainter than the planet, and two tiny moons called Amalthea and Adrastea.

The James Webb Space Telescope captured a wide view where it can see Jupiter’s faint rings and two tiny moons, Amalthea and Adrastea.NASA, ESA, Jupiter ERS Team. Image editing by Ricardo Hueso (UPV/EHU) and Judy Schmidt

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 in a gravitationally stable orbit, collecting infrared light. By collecting infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye, Webb is able to cut through cosmic dust and see far into the past, to the first 400 million years after the Big Bang.

Webb captured the new images of Jupiter using the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) filter. The images were artificially colored to highlight specific features, such as the planet’s stunning auroras.

“These new JWST images of Jupiter that have just been released are blowing my mind,” said James O’Donoghue, a planetary scientist with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Twitter. “Incredible detail of the turbulent atmosphere, auroras at the poles, rings encircling the planet, tiny 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 appear 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 unique image summarizes the science of the Jupiter system program, which studies the dynamics and chemistry of Jupiter itself, its rings and its satellite system,” said Thierry Fouchet, professor of astronomy at the Paris Observatory who led the observations. statement.

Wide-field view of Jupiter, captured by Webb.  The fuzzy points in the lower background are possible galaxies.

Wide-field view of Jupiter captured by the James Webb Space Telescope.NASA, ESA, Jupiter ERS Team. Image editing by Ricardo Hueso (UPV/EHU) and Judy Schmidt

Raw data collected during the telescope’s commissioning period, before it officially began science operations on July 12, also included an image of Jupiter.

“Combined with the deep-field images released the other day, these images of Jupiter show a complete understanding of what Webb can observe, from the faintest, most distant observable galaxies to planets in our cosmic backyard that you can see with the naked eye from your actual backyard,” Bryan Holler, a scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore who helped plan the observations, said in a statement in July.

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