James Webb Space Telescope’s Gaze on Jupiter:
The James Webb Space Telescope, launched in 2021, turned its powerful infrared instruments towards Jupiter in the summer of 2022, marking one of its initial observations. This choice proved to be extraordinary as it yielded images of Jupiter that exceeded astronomers’ expectations.
Unveiling Jupiter’s Hidden Secrets:
Within these images, the telescope revealed an intriguing and previously unknown feature lurking within Jupiter’s complex atmosphere, adding a layer of mystery and fascination to our understanding of the gas giant.
Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera: An Incredible Instrument:
Webb’s success in capturing these images can be attributed to its Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), an exceptional instrument that allowed astronomers to capture a series of images of Jupiter, separated by 10-hour intervals. Four distinct filters were applied in this process, enabling the detection of subtle changes in the planet’s atmosphere. This is particularly remarkable since these observations occur in the realm of invisible infrared light, providing unique insights into the celestial world.
The Astonishing High-Velocity Jet Stream:
Perhaps the most astonishing discovery was the presence of a high-velocity jet stream in Jupiter’s lower stratosphere.
Located around 25 miles (40 kilometers) above the planet’s cloud layer,
this atmospheric phenomenon was found to be exceptionally robust, primarily situated above Jupiter’s equator.
An Enigma in Jupiter’s Lower Stratosphere: This jet stream is colossal, extending over 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) in width, and it races through Jupiter’s atmosphere at a remarkable speed of 320 miles per hour (515 kilometers per hour). To provide a comparison, this velocity is twice that of the sustained winds of a Category 5 hurricane on Earth.
Jupiter’s Unique Atmospheric Layers: Unlike Earth, Jupiter is a massive sphere composed mostly of swirling gases. However, similar to our planet, Jupiter has a layered atmosphere with distinct strata that have intrigued astronomers and planetary scientists for years. These layers contain diverse weather patterns, including famous features like the Great Red Spot and icy ammonia clouds.
A Collaborative Effort of Space Observatories: The Webb telescope’s findings were further enhanced by the collective efforts of other space observatories, including NASA’s H