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Webb Space Telescope Uncovers Hidden Features of Jupiter’s Atmosphere

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Webb Space Telescope Uncovers Hidden Features of Jupiter’s Atmosphere

Webb Space Telescope Reveals New Features of Jupiter’s Atmosphere

The Webb Space Telescope has provided us with groundbreaking insights into the distant universe, and now it is helping us understand our own solar system better. Recently, the telescope has captured new features of Jupiter’s atmosphere that were previously unknown to us.

Above the main equatorial cloud layer of Jupiter, the Webb Telescope discovered a previously unseen width of over 4,800 kilometers. This region is home to high-speed jets, which were not known to exist until now. These findings were a part of the early science project led by Imke de Pater, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, and Thierry Fouchet, an astronomer at the Paris Observatory.

The project aimed to photograph Jupiter using four different filters every 10 hours, equivalent to one Jupiter day. By detecting tiny changes in features at different altitudes in Jupiter’s atmosphere, the researchers were able to gain valuable insights.

Despite the various ground-based telescopes and satellites, such as Juno, Cassini, and the Hubble Space Telescope, dedicated to studying Jupiter’s weather patterns, the Webb Space Telescope offered new information on Jupiter’s rings, moons, and atmosphere. Imke de Pater emphasized the importance of these discoveries in expanding our knowledge of the Jupiter system.

The Webb Telescope’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) is particularly sensitive to the upper atmosphere, approximately 25 to 50 kilometers above Jupiter’s cloud tops. New observations have revealed an unprecedented high-altitude wind, similar to Earth’s jet stream but confined to a narrow area above the equator. Previously, these upper-altitude haze features were often faint and difficult to study.

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The measurements conducted by the Webb and Hubble Space Telescopes show that these high-altitude winds are located around 40 kilometers above the clouds in Jupiter’s lower stratosphere. They have a flow speed of approximately 515 kilometers per hour, which is almost twice the speed of the winds below or equivalent to the wind speed of a Category 5 hurricane on Earth.

Follow-up observations by the Hubble Telescope have provided insight into the basic state and development of Jupiter’s equatorial atmosphere. It was determined that the equatorial convective storms on Jupiter are not related to the high-altitude jet stream discovered by the Webb Telescope.

The team responsible for this discovery hopes to conduct further observations of Jupiter using the Webb telescope to determine if the speed and altitude of the jet change over time. If the intensity of this new type of jet is influenced by the stratospheric oscillation mode, significant changes may occur within the next 2 to 4 years.

The findings have been published in the journal Nature Astronomy. As we continue to explore our solar system, the Webb Space Telescope proves to be an invaluable tool in unraveling the mysteries of planets like Jupiter.

(Image source: NASA)

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