NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope captures new images of Jupiter

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NASA has released images showcasing unprecedented views of the planet Jupiter taken by its James Webb Telescope, the most powerful telescope in the world, which is expected to give scientists more clues into the planet’s inner life.

The two images show auroras, moons, giant storms, and rings surrounding the planet in detail.

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Because infrared light is invisible to the human eye, the photographs were colored to make the planet’s features stand out.

“We hadn’t really expected it to be this good, to be honest,” Imke de Peter, a planetary astronomer and professor emerita of the University of California, said in a statement released by NASA on Monday.

“It’s really remarkable that we can see details on Jupiter together with its rings, tiny satellites, and even galaxies in one image,” she said.

Webb NIRCam composite image from two filters – F212N (orange) and F335M (cyan) – of Jupiter system. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA)
Webb NIRCam composite image from two filters – F212N (orange) and F335M (cyan) – of Jupiter system. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA)

De Pater and professor Thierry Fouchet of the Paris Observatory led the observations of Jupiter as part of an international collaboration for the telescope’s Early Release Science Program.

Webb itself is an international mission led by NASA in partnership with the European Space agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

NASA said that in the standalone view of Jupiter, created from a composite of several images captured by Webb, auroras extend to high altitudes above both the north and south poles of Jupiter.

The Great Red Spot, a famously enormous and enduring storm on Jupiter that could swallow Earth, appeared white in the images. This is because it reflected a lot of sunlight.

“The brightness here indicates high altitude – so the Great Red Spot has high-altitude hazes, as does the equatorial region,” said Heidi Hammel, Webb interdisciplinary scientist for solar system observations and vice president for science at AURA.

“The numerous bright white ‘spots’ and ‘streaks’ are likely very high-altitude cloud tops of condensed convective storms.”

“This one 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,” Fouchet said.

Researchers have already begun analyzing Webb data for new scientific insight into the mysteries of the solar system’s largest planet.

The $10 billion telescope was launched earlier this year. The White House on July 11 unveiled the first image from the telescope which showed stars and massive galaxies, offering the world’s deepest-ever glimpse into the edge of the universe.

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