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New images of Jupiter shed clues to its inner life

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The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has delivered two new, surprisingly accurate images of Jupiter, showing its giant storms and extreme winds and offering scientists additional clues about the internal life of that planet.

The US space agency (NASA) celebrated on Monday the quality of the details, which according to Imke de Pater, professor emeritus at the University of California and co-director of the observations, were not expected to be “so good”.

The released photographs allow us to see that the auroras extend at high altitudes over the north and south poles of Jupiter. These images come from the near-infrared camera (NIRcam), which has three infrared filters.

Since infrared light is invisible to the human eye, that light has been mapped to the visible spectrum. Longer wavelengths tend to appear redder and shorter wavelengths bluer.

In these snapshots, the “Great Red Spot” is clearly seen, a sandstorm that according to NASA is so big “that it could swallow the Earth”, and that this time appears white because it reflects a lot of sunlight.

Heidi Hammel, a scientist at Webb, points out in the statement that the brightness is a sign of high altitude, so this large spot “has high-altitude haze.”

Jupiter’s rings, “a million times dimmer than the planet,” according to the note, and two tiny moons called Amalthea and Adrasthea can also be seen in the images.

The researchers have already begun to analyze the data received, which does not arrive on Earth in an orderly package, but must be translated into images.

These last two were processed by Judy Schmidt, who collaborated with Ricardo Hueso in the one showing the planet’s small satellites, whose research at the University of the Basque Country deals with the study of planetary atmospheres.

The James Webb Space Telescope is a joint NASA mission with the European (ESA) and Canadian (CSA) agencies and was launched in December last year.

It is the largest ever sent into space, offers a never-before-seen view of the universe at near-infrared and mid-infrared wavelengths, and will make it possible to study a wide variety of celestial objects, from neighboring galaxies to the most distant reaches of the universe.


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