NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope continues to show us what it can do.
Tuesday, July 12, the James Webb Space Telescope the team unveiled the mission first scientific quality images, a handful of incredibly detailed shots from the universe deep and far. And today (July 14), the team released tantalizing photos of Jupiter, highlighting the $10 billion telescope’s ability to study targets much closer to home.
“Combined with the deep-field images released the other day, these images of Jupiter demonstrate full understanding of what Webb can observe, from the faintest and most distant observable galaxies to planets in our own cosmic backyard that you can see with the naked eye from your actual backyard,” Bryan Holler, scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore who helped plan observations of Jupiter, said in a press release (opens in a new tab).
Related: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Mission: Live Updates
Gallery: The first photos from the James Webb Space Telescope
The photos of Jupiter were captured during Webb’s commissioning period, when members of the mission team were calibrating and checking the observatory’s four science instruments and other systems. The commissioning ended at the beginning of the weekand Webb officially began science operations on Tuesday.
Webb, who launched on December 25, 2021, was designed to look deeply into the universe’s past, studying the first stars and galaxies to form. But the infrared observatory is a very capable all-purpose tool, and astronomers will use it to study a variety of cosmic objects and phenomena, including some in our own. solar systemas seen in images of Jupiter.
These photos are quite detailed, capturing the giant planet’s cloud bands, its famous Great Red Spot and even some of its faint rings. Several moons are also visible in the images, including European icy world that shelters a huge ocean under its icy shell.
“I couldn’t believe we were seeing everything so clearly and how bright they were,” said Stefanie Milam, Webb Project Assistant Scientist for Planetary Science based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in the same statement. “It’s really exciting to think about the ability and the opportunity we have to observe these kinds of objects in our solar system.”
The Webb team also observed several asteroids during commissioning, test the telescope’s ability to study fast-moving targets. Webb passed those tests with flying colors, team members said.
“Everything worked out wonderfully,” Milam said.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).