Jupiter It is the largest planet in the world Solar system. It is similar to a star, but it never became massive enough to burn. It is covered with streaks of swirling clouds. It has strong storms like the Great Red Spot, which have been going on for hundreds of years. Now thanks to the new James Webb space telescope have been able to capture shocking images of aurora and extreme conditions of temperature and pressure of this “giant” planet.
The Webb is the most powerful and complex space telescope in the history of astronomy. It is part of an international program led by the US Space Agency and with its partners, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency.
“We honestly didn’t expect it to be this good”said the planetary astronomer Imke de Paterprofessor emeritus of the University of California at Berkeley. De Pater led the Jupiter observations with Thierry Fouchet, a professor at the Paris Observatory, as part of an international collaboration for Webb’s Early Release Science program. “It’s really remarkable that we can see details of Jupiter along with its rings, small satellites and even galaxies in a single image,” said the expert.
The telescope took images via the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam). That camera has three specialized infrared filters that show details of the planet. Since infrared light is invisible to the human eye, the light is mapped into the visible spectrum. In general, longer wavelengths appear redder and shorter wavelengths appear bluer. To translate the Webb data into images, the scientists worked with Judy Schmidt, an amateur astronomer at the US Planetary Society.
In the independent view of Jupiter, made from a composite of several Webb images, Auroras spread high over the north and south poles of Jupiter. Auroras glow in a redder, color-mapped filter, which also brings out reflected light from lower clouds and upper nebulae. Another filter, mapped in yellow and green, shows the nebulae swirling around the north and south poles. A third filter, assigned to blues, shows light reflected from a deeper main cloud.
The Great Red Spot, the famous storm so large it could swallow the Earth, appears white in these views, like other clouds, because they reflect so much sunlight. “The glow here indicates high altitude” — so the Great Red Spot has a high-altitude haze, just like the equatorial region,” said Heidi Hammel, Webb’s interdisciplinary solar system observations scientist and vice president of science at AURA.
“The numerous bright white ‘spots’ and ‘streaks’ are probably high-altitude cloud tops from condensed convective storms.” In contrast, the dark belts north of the equatorial region have little cloud cover. In a wide-angle view, the Webb telescope shows Jupiter with its faint rings, which are a million times fainter than the planet, and two small moons called Amalthea and Adrasthea. The diffuse spots in the lower background are likely galaxies that have “slipped” into Jupiter’s view.
“This image summarizes the science of our Jupiter system program, which studies the dynamics and chemistry of Jupiter itself, its rings and its satellite system.”said Fouchet. Researchers have already started analyzing Webb data to obtain new scientific results about the largest planet in our solar system.
Data from telescopes like the Webb doesn’t arrive on Earth neatly packaged. Instead, they contain information about the brightness of the light at the telescope’s detectors. This information reaches the Space Telescope Science Institute, Webb’s center for science and mission operations, in the form of raw data. This center processes the data into calibrated files for scientific analysis and delivers it to the Mikulski Space Telescope archive for dissemination.
Scientists then translate that information into images. While a team from STScI formally processes the Webb images for official publication, non-professional astronomers, now known as “citizen scientists,” often delve into the public data archive to retrieve and process the images as well.
Schmidt lives in Modesto, California, and has been processing images in the community of amateur astronomers for a long time. He processed these new observations of Jupiter. For the image that includes the small satellites, he collaborated with Ricardo Huesoa co-investigator of these observations, who studies planetary atmospheres at the University of the Basque Country in Spain.
Schmidt has no academic background in astronomy. But 10 years ago, a European agency competition sparked his insatiable passion for image processing. The “Hubble Hidden Treasures” competition invited the public to find new gems in the Hubble data. Out of nearly 3,000 entries, Schmidt took third place for an image of a newborn star. “There is something that has stayed with me and I can’t stop. I could spend hours and hours every day,” he said in a… NASA blog.
Her love for astronomical images led her to process images of nebulae, globular clusters, stellar nurseries and more spectacular cosmic objects. His philosophy is, “I try to make it look natural, even if it doesn’t look like what the eye can see.” These images have attracted the attention of professional scientists, including Hammel, who previously worked with Schmidt to refine Hubble’s images of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9’s impact on Jupiter.
It is expected that the Webb telescope provides observations on all phases of cosmic history. Schmidt hopes to be amazed by the star-forming regions. “I’m really looking forward to seeing these weird and wonderful baby stars poking holes in nebulae,” he said.