James Webb telescope takes new images of Jupiter

NASA has released two new composite images of Jupiter. The images were created with data from the James Webb telescope. One of the images shows clouds of the planet; on the other we see the moons of the gas giant.

The images are composed of data from the Near-Infrared Camera, or NIRCam. This is an instrument on board the James Webb telescope with three infrared filters, each of which is responsible for a part of the infrared spectrum. The data from the infrared light is transmitted to Earth, after which composite images are assembled by scientists. Infrared light itself is not visible to the human eye. To make the data visible, scientists usually give infrared light with the longest wavelength a red tint; infrared light with a shorter wavelength takes on a blue tint.

The first image shows the planet’s two auroras. They are red and are located at the north and south poles of the planet. The auroras have taken on a red color because their reflection has been picked up by a filter in the NIRCam that registers infrared light with the longest wavelength. There are also other cloud formations with a reddish tinge in the images. Both the auroras and the red colored cloud formations reach according to NASA up high in the atmosphere.

We see a green glow around the north and south poles of the planet. According to NASA, it comes from the foggy atmosphere there. The reflected infrared light from that atmosphere is picked up by a filter that registers a shorter wavelength of the infrared spectrum. Many clouds moving across Jupiter’s surface have turned blue because they reflect shorter-wavelength infrared light.

Some parts of the atmosphere look a lot brighter than others. According to NASA, this is because those parts are higher in the planet’s atmosphere and therefore reflect more sunlight. We see that the auroras are very bright, but also that the Great Red Spot, a storm that has been sweeping the planet for hundreds of years, is very bright. The Great Red Spot is about three times the size of Earth.

The second composite image, with a wider field of view, shows Jupiter with its rings. They are much less clear on the screen than what we are used to with, for example, the rings of Saturn. This is because the rings near Jupiter have a much thinner composition than the planet. To the left of the image are two of Jupiter’s moons: Amalthea and Adrastea. The second composite image also shows some galaxies.