Webb’s Jupiter Images Showcase Auroras and Hazes
A wide field view showcases Jupiter in the upper right quadrant. The planet’s swirling horizontal stripes are rendered in blues, browns, and cream. Electric blue auroras (labeled Northern and Southern Aurora) glow above Jupiter’s north and south poles. A white glow emanates out from the auroras. Along the planet’s equator, rings glow in a faint white. These rings are one million times fainter than the planet itself! At the far left edge of the rings, a moon (labeled as Andrastea) appears as a tiny white dot. Slightly further to the left, another moon (labeled as Amalthea) glows with tiny white diffraction spikes. The rest of the image is the blackness of space, with faintly glowing white galaxies in the distance. Also labeled are spikes of light eminating from the Southern Aurora, which are diffraction spikes. At far left there is also another faint line labeled as a diffraction spike from Jupiter's moon Io.
With giant storms, powerful winds, auroras, and extreme temperature and pressure conditions, Jupiter has a lot going on. Now, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured new images of the planet. Webb’s Jupiter observations will give scientists even more clues to Jupiter’s inner life.
“We hadn’t really expected it to be this good, to be honest,” said planetary astronomer Imke de Pater, professor emerita of the University of California, Berkeley. De Pater led the observations of Jupiter with Thierry Fouchet, a professor at the Paris Observatory, as part of an international collaboration for Webb’s Early Release Science program. Webb itself is an international mission led by NASA with its partners ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency). “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.
This image comes from the observatory’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), which has three specialized infrared filters that showcase details of the planet. Since infrared light is invisible to the human eye, the light has been mapped onto the visible spectrum. Generally, the longest wavelengths appear redder and the shortest wavelengths are shown as more blue. Scientists collaborated with citizen scientist Judy Schmidt to translate the Webb data into images.
In this wide-field view, Webb sees Jupiter with its faint rings, which are a million times fainter than the planet, and two tiny moons called Amalthea and Adrastea. The fuzzy spots in the lower background are likely galaxies “photobombing” this Jovian view.
“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,” Fouchet said. Researchers have already begun analyzing Webb data to get new science results about our solar system’s largest planet.
In this standalone view of Jupiter, created from a composite of several images from Webb, auroras extend to high altitudes above both the northern and southern poles of Jupiter. The auroras shine in a filter that is mapped to redder colors, which also highlights light reflected from lower clouds and upper hazes. A different filter, mapped to yellows and greens, shows hazes swirling around the northern and southern poles. A third filter, mapped to blues, showcases light that is reflected from a deeper main cloud.
For More Information
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA, ESA, CSA, Jupiter ERS Team; image processing by Ricardo Hueso (UPV/EHU) and Judy Schmidt