JWST also examined the interior of the solar system, Jupiter and its moons

Following the “big reveal” earlier this week of the first James Webb Space Telescope color images and spectra of the universe, the science team has now released data closer to home. A stunning shot includes Jupiter and its moons, and there is data from several asteroids as well. This latest data is actually just engineering images, designed to test JWST’s ability to track targets in the solar system, as well as to test how the team can produce images from the data. The quality and detail of these test images excited mission scientists.

“Combined with the deep field images released the other day, these images of Jupiter demonstrate the full understanding of what Webb can observe, from the faintest and most distant observable galaxies to planets in our own cosmic backyard that you can see with the naked eye from your actual backyard,” said Bryan Holler, a scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, in a NASA blog post. Holler was part of the team that helped plan these sightings.

This view from JWST’s NIRCam instrument’s short-wavelength filter clearly shows the distinct cloud bands around the giant planet as well as the Great Red Spot, Jupiter’s famous gigantic storm. Scientists say the iconic spot appears white in this image due to the way Webb’s infrared image was processed.

Also clearly visible to the left is Europa, which is seen as a dark spot with light edges, and curiously, in the infrared, Europa is bright enough to create diffraction spikes. The diffraction spikes come from the hexagonal shape of the mirror segments, diffracting light from bright objects like stars, or in this case a nearby moon.

But look closely, and Europa’s shadow can be seen to the left of the Great Red Spot. Other visible moons include Thebe and Metis, which are seen as small white spots.

Left: Jupiter, center, and its moons Europa, Thebe, and Metis are seen through the 2.12-micron filter of the James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam instrument. Right: Jupiter and Europa, Thebes and Metis are seen through NIRCam’s 3.23 micron filter. Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA and B. Holler and J. Stansberry (STScI)

Even Jupiter’s thin rings are visible in some of the new images, using JWST’s NIRcam long-wavelength filter image. The highly diffuse rings were first discovered by the Voyager spacecraft in 1979.

“What JWST will do for Jupiter’s rings is provide exquisite stability and image quality, to characterize the structure of the ring, as well as its sources, sinks and evolution,” said Heidi Hammel. on Twitter, Hammel is an interdisciplinary JWST scientist who has early observing time on the telescope. to study Jupiter.

Jupiter and some of its moons are seen through NIRCam’s 3.23 micron filter. Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA and B. Holler and J. Stansberry (STScI)

Scientists were very eager to see these images because they are proof that JWST can observe satellites and rings near bright solar system objects such as Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. Some exciting sightings ahead include using the new space telescope to look for plumes of water gushing out of moons like Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Webb may be able to see signatures of plumes depositing material on Europa’s surface.

“I think that’s just one of the coolest things we’ll be able to do with this telescope in the solar system,” said Stefanie Milam, Webb Project Assistant Scientist for Planetary Science at the Goddard Space Flight Center in the US. Nasa.

Astronomer Judy Schmidt retrieved JWST data from Jupiter to create this image, which she shared on Twitter. Even the Great Red Spot is bright enough with NIRCam data to create diffraction spikes.

But other unusual features also appear, and scientists don’t yet know if the “extra outline” on the eastern limb is real or just an image artifact.

Heidi Hammel commented that his team noticed “that weird edge to the right and started discussing loose haze layers or airglow.” This illustrates how scientists are still learning to interpret infrared data from JWST. But to reiterate, Hammel added, “The Jupiter teams are so excited!”

JWST also obtained these images of Jupiter and Europa moving across the telescope’s field of view in three separate observations. This test demonstrated the observatory’s ability to find and track guide stars near bright Jupiter.

Jupiter and its moon Europa are visible in this animation made from three images taken through the 2.12 micron filter of the NIRCam instrument. Click on the image to replay the gif. Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA and B. Holler and J. Stansberry (STScI)

Scientists were very interested in testing how fast an object could move and still be tracked by JWST, and to do this, during the commissioning period, Webb tracked an asteroid called 6481 Tenzing, located in the belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter.

Engineers said JWST was designed with the requirement to track objects that move as fast as Mars, which has a top speed of 30 milliarcseconds per second. During commissioning, the Webb team made observations of various asteroids and proved that they could obtain valuable data with all scientific instruments for objects moving up to 67 milliarcseconds per second, more than the double the expected baseline. They said it’s “similar to photographing a turtle crawling when you’re standing a mile away.

AsThe aroid 6481 Tenzing, center, moves against a background of stars in this series of images taken by NIRCam. Click on the image to replay the gif. Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA and B. Holler and J. Stansberry (STScI)

You can read an article by JWST scientists, which characterized the performance of all telescope instruments during the commissioning period.

Want to play with JWST data? All data from the commissioning period of the telescope are now being published on the Mikulski Archive of the Space Telescope Science Institute for space telescopes.

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