It’s Saturn’s turn.
JWST aims its powerful gold-coated beryllium mirror at the second largest planet in our solar system, and perhaps the most impressive of all. So far, we only have a quick preview of the raw images without any scientific processing or commentary.
But it’s a start.
We’re used to great images of Saturn from the Hubble Space Telescope, especially as part of Opal (Exoplanets Legacy Atmospheres) monitoring program. Not only are these images rich in science, but they are also eye candy for the rest of us. But that’s not what the new Saturn images from JWST are about.
These images are from a proposal that is testing JWST’s NIRCAM instrument and its ability to detect faint moons around bright planets like Saturn. Saturn has 146 confirmed moons, not to mention the thousands of smaller moons embedded in its rings. But there may be other identifiable moons hidden beyond the reach of our earlier technology. JWST can find it.
Not only that, but finding faint moons around Saturn will help find faint moons around other planets, even in other solar systems. “Deep spectra of selected small moons of Saturn (Epimetheus, Pandora, Pallene and Telesto) with NIRSpec IFU will test the ability of JWST to capture deep spectra of faint targets near bright planets, which will be useful for ERS (Early Launch Science) and GO (General Observers) for other planetary systems,” explains the proposal description.
These images are a peek behind the curtain of polished press releases, processed images–and scientific commentary. But they are wonderful in their own way. For one thing, it shows how much work goes into turning raw images and data into something relatable.
Remember the JWST ‘Cosmic Cliffs’ photo from last summer? It was a combination of images taken with the MIRI and NIRCAM telescope instruments with different filters.
But the initial pictures looked a lot different. Here is one of them.
Here’s another one, and this is very similar to what we’re used to seeing in press releases and on websites.
If JWST images of Jupiter from a year ago are any indication, once those raw images are processed, we’ll be in for an enchanting show. JWST showed us Jupiter as we had never seen it before, and the images were amazing, something we were beginning to expect from a telescope.
There is an excellent cadre of astronomical image processors incl Judy Schmidt (aka Geckzilla), Kevin Gill, and others, who will no doubt bring these images to life through their artistry. who do you know They may have already got their hands on them and are busy preparing them for us.
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