The new James Webb Space Telescope can take pictures of not only galaxies throughout the universe, but also celestial bodies in our celestial backyard.
NASA released an image of Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, on Thursday. Jupiter is currently only 430 million miles from Earth. (By comparison, the galaxy light in the “deep space” image released earlier this week had to travel nearly 80 trillion miles to reach us.)
Heidi B. Hammel, Vice President of Science at the Association of Universities for Astronomy, wrote in an email: “We are crossing the moon to see what JWST engineering data shows about solar system science.” I am.
With a 21-foot wide mirror, the Webb Telescope can capture details of Jupiter and its large satellites. Telescope equipment collects light with infrared wavelengths that are redder than visible light. It offers a different view than what the Hubble Space Telescope provided over 30 years ago.
“We couldn’t see everything so clearly and believe how bright it was,” said Stephanie Miram, a deputy project scientist at Webb’s planetary sciences. NASA blog post..
Michael H. Wong, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, led the Hubble observations on Jupiter near the end of the month and participated in almost simultaneous web observations. Dr. Wong said he was particularly excited about the Infrared Webb measurement, which has a wavelength of about 3 microns, which cannot be observed with a telescope on the ground, because the Earth’s atmosphere absorbs much of the infrared spectrum.
“These wavelengths can only be observed from space, but they have some important spectral features that show what the particles of Jupiter’s clouds are made of,” said Dr. Wong.
To observe celestial bodies in our solar system, Webb needs to be able to track them as they move against stars far away. The telescope is designed to track Mars, which moves through the night sky at a speed of 30 milliseconds per second. During testing, the Webb team investigated a variety of asteroids and found that they were able to make excellent scientific observations of objects moving more than twice as fast, up to 67 ms / sec.
According to NASA, this is about the same pace as watching a turtle crawl from a mile away.
Dr. Hammel, an interdisciplinary scientist on the Webb team, said her planned observations included the search for mysterious and intermittent methane eruptions on Mars and Europe, the moon of Saturn’s ice sea. He said it would include a search for water eruptions in Enceladus. She also wants to study the atmosphere of Uranus and Neptune.
“The images so far are only appetizing for us,” she said. “I can’t wait for science to begin.”