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Webb Space Telescope reveals new feature in Jupiter’s atmosphere – ‘it totally surprised us’


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This image of Jupiter from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam (near-infrared camera) camera shows stunning detail of the majestic planet in infrared light. In this image, brightness indicates high altitude. The numerous bright white “spots” and “lines” are likely high-altitude cloud tops of intense convective storms. The aurora, shown in red in this image, extends to higher altitudes over the planet’s north and south poles. In contrast, the dark bands north of the equatorial region have little cloud cover. Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Ricardo Hueso (UPV), Emke de Pater (UC Berkeley), Thierry Fouchet (Paris Observatory), Lee Fletcher (University of Leicester), Michael H. Wong (University of California at Berkeley), Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

A narrow jet stream near Jupiter’s equator has winds traveling at 320 mph.

Jupiter It contains some of the most notable features of the atmosphere in our solar system. The planet’s Great Red Spot, large enough to envelop the Earth, is almost as recognizable as some of the various rivers and mountains on the planet that we call home.

However, like Earth, Jupiter is constantly changing, and there is a lot about the planet that we have yet to learn. NASA‘s James Webb Space Telescope It unlocks some of these mysteries, revealing new features of Jupiter that we haven’t seen before, including a high-speed jet speeding above the planet’s equator. While the jet stream isn’t as visually clear or stunning as some of Jupiter’s other features, it does give researchers a fascinating insight into how the planet’s atmospheric layers interact with each other, and how Webb will aid in these investigations in the future.

Jupiter jet retreats (Webb NIRCam image)

Researchers using the NIRCam (near-infrared camera) of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope have detected a high-speed jet stream located just above Jupiter’s equator, above the main cloud surfaces. At a wavelength of 2.12 microns, which is observed between altitudes of about 12-21 miles (20-35 kilometers) above Jupiter’s cloud tops, the researchers observed several wind shears, or regions where wind speed changes with height or distance, which enabled them to observe a trace The Plane. This image highlights several features around Jupiter’s equatorial region that, between one revolution of the planet (10 hours), are clearly disturbed by the movement of the jet stream. Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Ricardo Hueso (UPV), Emke de Pater (UC Berkeley), Thierry Fouchet (Paris Observatory), Lee Fletcher (University of Leicester), Michael H. Wong (University of California at Berkeley), Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

The Webb Space Telescope discovers a new feature in Jupiter’s atmosphere

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has discovered a new, never-before-seen feature in Jupiter’s atmosphere. The high-speed jet, more than 3,000 miles (4,800 km) wide, lies above Jupiter’s equator above major cloud surfaces. The discovery of this jet gives insight into how the layers of Jupiter’s turbulent atmosphere interact with each other, and how Webb is uniquely able to track those features.

“This is something that completely surprised us,” said Ricardo Hueso of the University of the Basque Country in Bilbao, Spain, lead author of the paper describing the findings. “What we always saw as a fuzzy haze in Jupiter’s atmosphere now appears as clear features that we can track along with the planet’s rapid rotation.”

Webb’s unique imaging capabilities

The research team analyzed data from the Webb NIRCam (near infrared camera) captured in July 2022. Early Release Science Program – co-led by Imke de Pater from University of California, Berkeley and Thierry Foucher of the Paris Observatory – was designed to take images of Jupiter 10 hours apart, or one Jupiter day, in four different filters, each uniquely capable of detecting changes in small features at different altitudes of Jupiter’s atmosphere.

Jupiter's atmosphere James Webb Space Telescope

Jupiter has a layered atmosphere, and this illustration shows how Webb is uniquely able to gather information from higher layers of the atmosphere than before. Scientists were able to use Webb to determine wind speeds in different layers of Jupiter’s atmosphere in order to isolate the high-speed jet. Observations of Jupiter were taken 10 hours apart, or one Jupiter day, in three different filters, described here, each uniquely capable of detecting changes in small features at different altitudes of Jupiter’s atmosphere. Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Ricardo Hueso (UPV), Emke de Pater (UC Berkeley), Thierry Fouchet (Paris Observatory), Lee Fletcher (University of Leicester), Michael H. Wong (University of California at Berkeley, Andy James (STScI)

“Although many ground-based telescopes and spacecraft such as NASA’s Juno and… CassiniAnd NASA Hubble Space Telescope De Pater observed the changing weather patterns of the Jovian system, and Webb had already provided new findings about Jupiter’s rings, satellites, and atmosphere.

Contrasting layers of the atmosphere

While Jupiter differs from Earth in many ways — Jupiter is a gas giant, and Earth is a temperate, rocky world — both planets have layered atmospheres. The infrared, visible, radio and ultraviolet wavelengths observed by these other missions detect the lower and deeper layers of the planet’s atmosphere – where Giant storms Ammonia ice clouds are present.

On the other hand, Webb’s view farther out in the near-infrared than before is sensitive to higher layers of the atmosphere, about 15-30 miles (25-50 kilometers) above Jupiter’s cloud tops. In near-infrared imaging, high-altitude haze typically appears hazy, with enhanced brightness above the equatorial region. With Web, fine details are resolved within the blurry bright band.

Examination of storm systems on Jupiter

This illustration of lightning, convective towers (thunderheads), deep water clouds, and clearance in Jupiter’s atmosphere is based on data collected by the Juno spacecraft, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Gemini Observatory. Juno detects radio signals generated by lightning discharges. Because radio waves can pass through all of Jupiter’s cloud layers, Juno is able to detect lightning in deep clouds as well as lightning on the dayside of the planet. Hubble detects sunlight reflecting off clouds in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Different wavelengths penetrate to different depths in clouds, giving researchers the ability to determine the relative heights of cloud tops. Gemini maps the thickness of cold clouds that block thermal infrared light from the warmer layers of the atmosphere below the clouds. Dense clouds appear dark on infrared maps, while clearings appear bright. The collection of observations can be used to map cloud structure in three dimensions and infer details of atmospheric circulation. Thick, towering clouds form as moist air rises (rising water upwelling and active convection). Purges form where drier (bottom) air sinks. The clouds shown rise five times higher than similar convection towers in Earth’s relatively shallow atmosphere. The area shown covers a horizontal area one-third larger than the continental United States. Image credit: NASA, ESA, M. H. Wong (UC Berkeley), and A. James and MW Carruthers (STScI)

Characteristics of the new jet stream

The newly discovered jet stream travels at about 320 miles per hour (515 kilometers per hour), twice as fast as the sustained winds blowing on Earth’s surface. Category 5 hurricane Here on earth. It is located about 25 miles (40 kilometers) above the clouds, in Jupiter’s lower stratosphere (see graphic above).

By comparing the winds observed by Webb at high altitudes with the winds observed by Hubble in deeper layers, the team was able to measure how quickly winds change with height and generate wind shear.

While Webb’s exquisite resolution and wavelength coverage allowed the detection of small cloud features used to track the jet, complementary observations from Hubble taken a day after Webb’s observations were also crucial for determining the ground state of Jupiter’s equatorial atmosphere and observing the development of equatorward convective storms. Jupiter is not connected to the aircraft.

“We knew that the different wavelengths of Webb and Hubble would reveal the 3D structure of storm clouds, but we were also able to use the timing of the data to see how quickly storms develop,” added team member Michael Wong of the University of California, California. California, Berkeley, who led the associated Hubble observations.

Future observations and implications

The researchers are looking forward to additional observations of Jupiter with Webb to determine whether the plane’s speed and altitude are changing over time.

“Jupiter has a complex but repetitive pattern of winds and temperatures in the equatorial stratosphere, high above the winds in clouds and fog measured at these wavelengths,” explained team member Lee Fletcher from the University of Leicester in the UK. “If the strength of this new jet is related to this oscillating stratospheric pattern, we might expect the jet to change dramatically over the next two to four years – it will be really interesting to test this theory in the coming years.”

He continued: “It is amazing to me that after years of tracking Jupiter’s clouds and winds from numerous observatories, we still have more to learn about Jupiter, and features like this one could remain hidden from view until these new NIRCam images are taken in 2022.” “. Fletcher.

The researchers’ findings were recently published in Nature astronomy.

Reference: “A narrow, condensed equatorial jet in Jupiter’s lower stratosphere observed by the James Webb Space Telescope” by Ricardo Hueso, Agustín Sanchez-La Vega, Thierry Foucher, Imke De Pater, Arati Antoniano, Lee N. Fletcher, Michael H. Wong, and Pablo Rodriguez -Offaly, Lawrence A. Sromowski, Patrick M. Frey, Glenn S. Orton, Sandrine Girlet, Patrick J. J. Irwin, Emmanuel Lelouch, Jake Harkett, Catherine de Clare, Henrik Melin, Vincent Hue, Amy A. Simon, Statia Luszcz-Cook, and Kunio M. Sayanagi, October 19, 2023, Nature astronomy.
doi: 10.1038/s41550-023-02099-2

The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s leading space science observatory. Webb solves the mysteries of our solar system, looks beyond the distant worlds around other stars, and explores the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. WEB is an international program led by NASA with its partners the European Space Agency (ESA).European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

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