An early look at the view of Jupiter captured by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, hinted at how precise and detailed our new view of the planet would be. NASA published another set of photographs this week showing Jupiter’s cloud cover, rings and moons in incredible detail. It was better than the scientists expected.
” “We didn’t expect it to be so good,” stated Imke de Pater (planetary astronomer and professor emeritus at the University of California in Berkeley) in a press release. “It’s really remarkable that we can see details on Jupiter together with its rings, tiny satellites, and even galaxies in one image.”
The telescope uses a camera with three filters that translate infrared light into colors that the human eye can see. The filter mapped to red colors shows Jupiter’s auroras, which shine off the planet’s poles. Light reflected from deep clouds appears in blues. The planet’s weird atmosphere hazes appear in a filter that is green and yellow. The planet’s famous Great Red Spot — an enormous storm bigger than Earth — is so bright that it appears white. NASA claims that the white spots and streaks are caused by reflected sunlight hitting high-altitude clouds.
Zoomed-out images show the planet’s faint rings and two moons, which scientists are analyzing to learn more about the planet.
Taking the information from the JWST and translating it into processed, beautiful images was particularly difficult with Jupiter. In NASA’s press release, Judy Schmidt, citizen scientist, and image processor, stated that the planet rotates much faster than other celestial objects. Schmidt, along with others, had to merge several images in order to create these photos of the gas giant.
With these new images, Jupiter joins Stephan’s Quintet (a cluster of five galaxies), exoplanet WASP-96 b, the Southern Ring Nebula, and a handful of other cosmic characters who have already gotten their close-up with the JWST. And they’re just the start — there’s so much more to explore, and more images are coming soon.
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