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The world’s largest and most powerful space telescope has captured incredibly detailed photographs of Jupiter in infrared light, showcasing two moons, two rings and distant galaxies.
Captured in July and released by NASA this week, images from the James Webb Space Telescope showcase intricate swirls, rings and tiny satellites on the planet, thanks to the telescope’s three-part infrared filters.
Because infrared light is not visible to the human eye, researchers worked with citizen scientist Judy Schmidt of Modesto to recolor the image to make the details more apparent. The planet’s north and south auroras from ionized hydrogen are highly visible, as are high-altitude hazes, dark ribbons of regions with little cloud cover and the notorious Great Red Spot, a storm large enough to entirely engulf our planet.
NASA said these photographs will help scientists glimpse further into the innerworkings of Jupiter. Researchers are already beginning to analyze the findings to get more insight into the largest planet in our solar system.
An image like this is something Imke de Pater, co-leader of the project and professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has never seen before.
“We hadn’t really expected it to be this good, to be honest. It’s really remarkable that we can see details on Jupiter together with its rings, tiny satellites and even galaxies in one image,” de Pater said in a statement.
Along with the Great Red Spot, the image also showcases bright cloud particles and storm systems that look like small ovals scattered around the planet. There’s a clear transition from storm vortexes and organized zonal flows in different latitudes, which provides a new perspective for researchers, said de Pater.
“We hadn’t really expected it to be this good, to be honest. It’s really remarkable that we can see details on Jupiter together with its rings, tiny satellites and even galaxies in one image.”Imke de Pater, UC Berkeley, project co-leader
“JWST’s combination of images and spectra at near- and mid-infrared wavelengths will allow us to study the interplay of dynamics, chemistry and temperature structure in and above the Great Red Spot and the auroral regions,” she said.
Another wide-field image of Jupiter from the satellite even captured Jupiter’s ring system, which NASA said is 1 million times fainter than the planet itself, and two tiny moons, Amalthea and Adrastea.
The $10 billion Webb telescope launched last year with the help of the European Space Agency and Canadian Space Agency, with its first images released in July 2022. Scientists plan to use the telescope’s infrared light abilities to capture parts of the universe that have never before been seen.