Two Webb Space Telescope Images of Jupiter That You May Have Missed

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Jupiter, it’s the James Webb Space Telescope. Are you ready for a close-up?

Astronomers and the general public were enthralled by the JWST’s stunning images over the past 48 hours.A sneaky target was added that didn’t quite make it into the big leagues. It was Jupiter, the gas giant.

A document detailing the commissioning activities and characterizing the science performance for the next-gen telescope, contains an infrared image showing the planet and its moons. The document is Space Telescope Science Institute but we’ve got the images just below.

Webb’s NIRCam took two images of Jupiter. The following three Jovian Moons are identified: Thebe (Europa), Metis (Metis).


NASA/ESA/CSA

Webb focused its attention on Jupiter in order to evaluate its tracking performance of moving targets. Webb used its Near Infrared Camera to take two images at two different wavelengths. The F212N filter is used on the shorter wavelength. F323N filters are used for longer wavelengths. It took only 75 seconds to expose, which is quite impressive.

Maybe it doesn’t stack up with the bounty of images released over the past 48 hours — that’s some tough competition — but it’s still pretty gnarly. It’s possible to see Europa’s shadow, the Great Red Spot, and the bands that run across the gas giant. 

JWST’s ability of tracking fast moving objects is much better than anticipated, according to the commissioning documents. That opens up the possibility that it could be used to study asteroids near Earth. Overall, JWST has met or exceeded its pre-launch expectations and is just beginning years of scientific discovery. 

Astronomers are still excited about the first images. There have been increasing calls for the JWST to be renamed for several years, prompting an inquiry from NASA that seemingly ended in 2021. NASA claims that its extensive inquiry into the telescope’s name and role in homophobic government policy is over and that the name will remain unchanged. NASA has yet not revealed the details of its investigation. However, an update will be made in the coming weeks.

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