Science

JWST has taken even more beautiful images of Jupiter and its aurora

The James Webb Space Telescope has taken new images of Jupiter, showing off its bright hazes, tenuous rings and auroras with the hopes of understanding the entire system better



Space



22 August 2022

The orange glow at Jupiter’s poles are its aurora

NASA, ESA, CSA and Jupiter ERS Team. Image processing by Judy Schmidt

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has released two stunning new images showcasing the complexities of Jupiter. While its previous images of the gas giant each used only one wavelength of light, these are composite images, showing Jupiter’s glowing auroras, shifting haze and two of its small moons.

Because JWST observes in infrared light, these images do not show Jupiter as it would look to the naked eye. Instead, different infrared wavelengths have been mapped to different colours to highlight particular features of the planet.

In the above image, the orange glow at Jupiter’s poles is its aurora. The green represents layers of tenuous high-altitude haze, while blue shows the main cloud layer. The white areas show the tops of storms, including the Great Red Spot.

“We hadn’t really expected it to be this good, to be honest,” said Imke de Pater at University of California, Berkeley – who led this research along with Thierry Fouchet at the Paris Observatory – in a statement. “It’s really remarkable that we can see details on Jupiter together with its rings, tiny satellites, and even galaxies in one image.”

Webb NIRCam composite image from two filters ? F212N (orange) and F335M (cyan) ? of Jupiter system, unlabeled (top) and labeled (bottom).

Jupiter and two of its small moons, Adrastea and Amalthea

NASA, ESA, CSA and Jupiter ERS Team. Image processing by Judy Schmidt

The wide-field image of Jupiter, above, shows not just Jupiter’s aurora – this time in blue – but also its tenuous rings. Lined up to the left of the planet are two of its small moons, Adrastea and Amalthea. The spots scattered throughout the image are mostly distant galaxies in the background.

De Pater and her colleagues hope that images like this will allow them to unravel the connections between Jupiter’s different layers and gain an understanding of how gas and heat move throughout the planet. They also aim to study the planet’s faint ring and how it evolves over time, as well as take pictures of some of its moons.

“This one image sums up the science of our Jupiter system program,” said Fouchet. The researchers are now analysing the data that was used to create these images, looking for hints as to Jupiter’s inner machinations.

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