NASA has shared two new images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) that show us the impressive auroras that shine around Jupiter’s north and south poles and that are caused by fluctuations in the planet’s magnetic field.
The observations are so detailed that not only can we see structures in Jupiter’s turbulent atmosphere, but we can also see the planet’s rings, some of its moons , and even auroras.
“The brightness here indicates high altitude , so the Great Red Spot has high-altitude haze, as does the equatorial region,” says Heidi Hammel, Webb Interdisciplinary Scientist for Solar System Observations. “The many bright white ‘spots’ and ‘streaks’ are likely cloud tops from high-altitude condensed convective storms.”
Turbulent atmosphere of the planet
The James Webb Telescope observes the universe in infrared light , which is invisible to us. The colors in these amazing new images of Jupiter have been assigned from three different filters to the colors we can see. Blue has the shortest infrared wavelength and is the hottest areas, compared to the longest wavelength plotted in red hues. Thus, the deeper cloud layers and haze are in green or yellow. The deepest parts are in blue. The Great Red Spot, a famous storm so big it could swallow the Earth , appears white in these views. Other clouds do too because they reflect a lot of sunlight.
The telescope also detected Jupiter’s thin rings made of dust particles from the debris, auroras visible at Jupiter’s north and south poles, and two of the planet’s moons, Amalthea and Adrasthea. The fuzzy dots in the background are galaxies, according to NASA.
“We really didn’t expect it to be that 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 about Jupiter along with its rings, small satellites and even galaxies in a single image.”
“This 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,” said Thierry Fouchet, a professor at the Paris observatory.
A new era for astronomy
Scientists have already begun analyzing the Webb data for new scientific results about the largest planet in our solar system. The $10 billion telescope was sent into space late last year and has been observing the cosmos in the infrared since the summer. Scientists hope to see the dawn of the universe with Webb, looking back to when the first stars and galaxies formed 13.7 billion years ago.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is operated primarily by NASA, in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and these new photos of Jupiter show what the space telescope can do not only to billions of light years away, but also close to our own neighborhood.