Science

The James Webb Telescope can take detailed photos of the planets and moons in our own solar system

Mariella Moon
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In the past few days, NASA has released stunning photos of fogGroups of galaxies and even the “deepest” view of the universe taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. Now the agency has released images of something a lot closer to home than everyone’s new favorite telescope – sorry, Hubble! – captured. When James Webb’s team calibrated the instrument, members photographed Jupiter to see if it can be used to observe nearby celestial objects like moons and asteroids, as well as other elements like planetary rings and satellites. The answer, it turns out, is yes.

A photograph taken by the shortwave filter of the telescope’s near-infrared camera (NIRCam) instrument (above) clearly shows the different bands of the gas giant and its moon Europa. The Great Red Spot is also perfectly visible, although it looks white due to the way the image was processed. When the NIRCam instrument’s 2.12 micron filter was used, the resulting image showed Jupiter’s moons Europa, Thebes, Metis and even Europa’s shadow near the Great Red Spot. And when the team used NIRCam’s 3.23 micron filter, the resulting image captured some of Jupiter’s rings, as you can see below:

James Webb

NASA, ESA, CSA and B Holler and J Stansberry (STScI)

Bryan Holler, one of the scientists who helped plan these observations, said:

“Combined with the recently released deep-field images, these images of Jupiter provide a full understanding of what Webb can observe, from the faintest, most distant observable galaxies to planets in our own cosmic backyard that you can see with the naked eye.” eye can see your actual backyard.”

It’s worth noting that James Webb captured these images moving across his field of view in three separate observations, proving his ability to find and track stars near a celestial body as bright as Jupiter is. That means it can be used to study moons in our solar system and could give us the first images of the clouds of matter known to be ejected from natural satellites like Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

The team also tracked asteroids in the asteroid belt to find the fastest objects it can observe. They found that it can still collect data from objects moving across its field of view at up to 67 milliarcseconds per second. NASA says this is equivalent to tracking a turtle moving from a mile away. As Stefanie Milam, James Webb’s associate project scientist, said, these images show that “everything worked brilliantly.” Not only can we expect impressively more detailed images of space in the future, but also information that could shed more light on how the first galaxies formed.

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