Jupiter still shines, even when viewed from the side in unprocessed data.
Astronomers are busy studying new data from the James Webb Space Telescope (nicknamed Webb or JWST) in an ongoing race to spot galaxies. But the observatory continues to study many objects closer to home.
Among the targets of these observations is Jupiter. NASA has released a handful of first JWST images of the massive planet on July 14, but the telescope continued to revisit the planet through a program intended to demonstrate JWST’s potential to study our own solar system as well as the distant universe.
And that potential is displayed in a raw image taken by the telescope’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) instrument on July 27, 2022, which highlights Jupiter’s massive storm, celebrates the great red spotas well as bands in the planet’s atmosphere.
And the image, along with Webb’s other observations, are designed to help scientists (opens in a new tab) understand this atmosphere, tackling tasks such as characterizing its thermal structure and layers, as well as studying phenomena such as winds and auroras.
To create the new image, NIRCam watched Jupiter for nearly 11 minutes using what scientists call the F212N filter, which observes light that has a wavelength of 2.12 microns, roughly length of a common bacterium (opens in a new tab). The filter has earned its place on the observatory because scientists can use its data to study molecular hydrogen (opens in a new tab).
According to a preliminary schedule (opens in a new tab) released by the Space Telescope Science Institute of Maryland, which operates the JWST, the observatory’s targets for next week include Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io, the large asteroid Hygeia and the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A.
However, viewing times are always subject to change. Additionally, not all JWST data is immediately made public; for many of its observations, the scientists who requested the data are given special access for a year to facilitate their analysis.