After being blown away by the images from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) that NASA released, the world is hungry for more. Luckily, some eagle-eyed astronomy lovers noticed another incredible image from Webb tucked into the commissioning report released last week. This document summarizes the scientific performance of Webb over the past six months and, as part of the performance testing, it turns out that the telescope also photographed Jupiter.
Webb's NIRCam photographed the gas giant and eight other subjects during a test to see how it performed when tracking moving objects. In the side-by-side images, we see Jupiter photographed using two different filters. On the left, NIRCam used a short-wavelength filter and, on the right, a long-wavelength filter.
Not only was JWST able to photograph Jupiter, but it also picked up three of its many moons—Europa, Thebe, and Metis. Europa's shadow is even visible to the left of the Great Red Spot. NIRCam was able to pick up the faintest of details, including Jupiter's rings, which makes this an exciting preview of what's to come.
Jupiter was the slowest of the nine test targets that JWST photographed, but all of the images were successful. The results make the team hopeful that tracking even faster objects might be a possibility in the future, which would “potentially open up science for near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), comets closer to perihelion, and interstellar objects.”
The commissioning report details all the testing that Webb underwent since it was sent into orbit. And the report makes clear that it's beginning its mission after having exceeded all pre-launch estimates. “With revolutionary capabilities, JWST has begun the first of many years of scientific discovery,” the report proclaims.
Eagle-eyed astronomy lovers noticed that the James Webb Space Telescope photographed Jupiter.
— Erin M. May, PhD (@_astronomay) July 12, 2022