New infrared images of Jupiter from the James Webb Space Telescope show intricate lacework around the Great Red Spot and the edges of the planet’s coloured bands. In addition, the images, artificially coloured to make certain features prominent, give an unrivalled view of the auroras over the north and south poles.
The images were released on August 22 as part of the telescope’s Early Release Science program.
A wide-field image offers a stunning array of Jupiter, its faint rings and two of the planet’s smaller moons, Amalthea and Adrastea, on a background of galaxies.
“We’ve never seen Jupiter like this. It’s all quite incredible. 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,”
said Imke de Pater, of the University of California, Berkeley, who led the scientific observations of the planet with professor Thierry Fouchet, from the Paris Observatory.
Storms And Vortex Pattern Perspectives On Jupiter
Multiple storm systems are also visible as small pallid ovals. Tiny bright plumes of cloud particles, the transition between organized zonal flows and the chaotic vortex patterns at higher latitudes are also clearly visible.
Astronomers have previously observed many of these features of Jupiter before. But the James Webb Space Telescope’s infrared wavelength instrumentation presents a new perspective.
“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,”
said de Pater.
Adrastea and AmaltheaThe Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) also captured a wide-field view of Jupiter showing its rings and two of its moons. The image is a showpiece for the sensitivity and dynamic range of the NIRCam instrument.
“It reveals the bright waves, swirls and vortices in Jupiter’s atmosphere and simultaneously captures the dark ring system, 1 million times fainter than the planet, as well as the moons Amalthea and Adrastea, which are roughly 200 and 20 kilometers across, respectively. 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,”
Spectroscopic observations of Jupiter’s auroras are scheduled for later this year. Detailed spectroscopic observations of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot were taken on July 27 in the near-infrared and August 14-15 at mid-infrared wavelengths.
The Great Red Spot observations are a joint project involving the Early Release Science (ERS) team, with de Pater and Fouchet as co-principal investigators, in cooperation with a program of Solar System observations developed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy’s Heidi Hammel. The Jupiter observations are led by Leigh Fletcher, a professor at the University of Leicester in England.