Stunning images of Jupiter shown by NASA’s James Webb Telescope


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Stunning images taken by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope show Jupiter in new glory.

Fifth in line from the Sun, Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system – more than twice the size of all the others combined. If Earth were the size of a grape, Jupiter would be the size of a basketball, according to NASA.

Now the Webb Telescope has captured images that show its giant storms, auroras and faint rings in more detail.

“We have never seen Jupiter like this. It’s absolutely amazing,” said planetary astronomer Imke de Pater, professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. “To be honest, we didn’t really expect it to be this good,” she added in a statement.

De Pater conducted the observations of Jupiter with Thierry Fouchet, professor at the Paris Observatory, as part of an international collaboration. The photos were taken in July and released Monday by NASA, which called the “giant news from a giant planet”.

NASA unveils first images from the James Webb Space Telescope

“It is truly remarkable that we can see details of Jupiter with its rings, tiny satellites and even galaxies in a single image,” de Pater said in the release.

The $10 billion telescope is named after James E. Webb, who led the then fledgling US space agency from 1961 to 1968. The telescope is an international collaboration led by NASA, alongside the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, and was launched in 2021.

In July, NASA released the first set of color images and data from the groundbreaking telescope, revealing a twinkling cosmic spectacle of colliding galaxies and a dying star.

The two published photos of Jupiter this week, made up of multiple Webb images, were taken by the telescope’s near-infrared camera, which has infrared filters that show detail on the planet. Because infrared light is invisible to the human eye, the images were artificially colored to translate it into the visible spectrum and bring out features of Jupiter, NASA said. The images were processed by a citizen scientist Judy Schmidt.

Unlike Earth, Jupiter has no solid surface and is instead a gas giant, composed mostly of hydrogen and helium. It is believed to have the same basic ingredients as a star but never grew massive enough to ignite. It also has several rings, but unlike Saturn’s, they are weaker and made of space dust rather than ice.

In a wide-field view, the new images show Jupiter with its faint rings and two tiny moons, called Amalthea and Adrastea.

“This image summarizes the science of our Jupiter System program, which studies the dynamics and chemistry of Jupiter itself, its rings and its satellite system,” said astronomer Fouchet.

Take a cosmic tour inside images captured by NASA’s Webb Telescope

Jupiter, where a day lasts about 10 hours, has at least 50 moons. The four largest, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, were first observed in 1610 by Italian physicist Galileo Galilei.

The images also capture Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot, which appears white in photographs because it reflects sunlight, NASA said. The Great Red Spot is a storm larger than Earth that has been raging for centuries.

In a seemingly renewed era of space exploration, earlier this month NASA also said it had identified 13 candidate landing regions on Earth’s Moon as it prepares to send astronauts there in the as part of its Artemis program.

This will be the first mission to bring the crew back to the lunar surface since Apollo in 1969 and to understand the first woman and person of color to set foot on the moon.

Meanwhile, an audio clip NASA shared over the weekend of what it called the remixed sounds of a black hole sparked admiration. The audio was edited to be heard by humans and amplified, but NASA said the sound, which emanates from a cluster of galaxies about 240 million light-years away, challenged the misconception that there is no sound in space.

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