NASA pointed the James Webb telescope at Jupiter during testing. Here’s what I saw
In short: It’s been a big week for NASA and the James Webb Space Telescope as the agency publicly shared the first full-color images from the groundbreaking observatory. Now NASA has begun releasing images and data from the commissioning of the telescope.
Webb entered its planned orbit back in January, but had to pass six months later. commissioning period to make sure all of its tools are functioning properly. During this period, Webb targeted “local” targets, including Jupiter and several asteroids, to test his instruments. This data is now published by NASA.
The image above shows Jupiter and its moon Europa (left) as seen through the NIRCam Webb instrument with a 2.12 micron filter. The Great Red Spot of the planet is clearly visible, as well as the characteristic bands surrounding the gas giant.
“Combined with the deep field images released today, these Jupiter images show a complete understanding 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 from your real back yard said Brian Holler is a scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.
Webb was also able to detect some of Jupiter’s rings using the NIRCam camera’s 3.23-micron filter.
“Narrow-band filter images of Jupiter were designed to provide a good image of the entire disk of the planet, but the wealth of additional information about very faint objects (Metis, Thebe, main ring, haze) in these images with approximately one minute exposure was a very pleasant surprise. “said John Stansberry, Observatory Scientist and Head of NIRCam Commissioning at the Space Telescope Science Institute.
The team was also pleased with Webb’s ability to track moving objects. The sight was designed to track objects that move as fast as Mars, which has a maximum speed of 30 milliseconds of arc per second. Through tests with various asteroids, the team found that Webb could acquire valuable data on a target moving at speeds of up to 67 milliarcseconds per second—more than twice as fast as it had been designed.
“Everything worked out brilliantly,” said Stephanie Milam, Webb Associate Scientist for Planetary Science at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.