Nasa released the images taken during the commissioning of the flying observatory that show Jupiter in all its glory. The image was released on the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes.

After mesmerising the world with the first scientific images of the ancient universe, the James Webb Telescope has trained its lenses towards our own solar system. Jupiter is its first target.

The data not only has the image but also spectra of several asteroids, captured to test the telescope’s instruments before science operations officially began July 12. “The data demonstrates Webb’s ability to track solar system targets and produce images and spectra with unprecedented detail,” Nasa said in a statement.

While looking at Jupiter, the telescope, located 15,00,000 kilometres away from home, also saw distinct bands that encircle the planet, as well as the Great Red Spot, a storm big enough to swallow the Earth. The iconic spot appears white in this image because of the way Webb’s infrared image was processed.

Bryan Holler, a scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, who helped plan the observation, said, “Combined with the deep field images released the other day, these images of Jupiter demonstrate the full grasp 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

Meanwhile, Europa, an icy world that will soon welcome a human-made spacecraft, can be seen shining in the background. What’s more, Europa’s shadow can be seen to the left of the Great Red Spot. Other visible moons in these images include Thebe and Metis.

Nasa said that scientists were especially eager to see these images because they are proof that Webb can observe the satellites and rings near bright solar system objects such as Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars. Scientists will use Webb to explore the tantalizing question of whether we can see plumes of material spewing out of moons like Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

Webb easily captured some of Jupiter’s rings, which especially stand out in the NIRcam long-wavelength filter image.

“The Jupiter images in the narrow-band filters were designed to provide nice images of the entire disk of the planet, but the wealth of additional information about very faint objects (Metis, Thebe, the main ring, hazes) in those images with approximately one-minute exposures was absolutely a very pleasant surprise,” said John Stansberry, observatory scientist and NIRCam commissioning lead.


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