In July 2022, the Webb Space Telescope detected an intense jet shooting across the equator of Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. The plane is traveling at about 320 miles per hour (515 kilometers per hour) and has an altitude of about 25 miles (40 kilometers), which corresponds to Jupiter’s lower stratosphere.
Astronomers have known about the presence of east-west jets in the gas giant’s atmosphere, but analysis of the newly observed fast jets suggests that Jupiter’s gas interior may be more dynamic than previously thought. Research team examining the plane is published In natural astronomy.
The Webb Space Telescope was launched from French Guiana in December 2021; It has been making scientific observations of the universe since July 2022, after a months-long commissioning process. You can see some of Webb’s most vivid and insightful images since the start of her science campaign here.
Webb’s penetrating infrared gaze can detect ancient light, stretching back billions of years of cosmic evolution. But this did not make him strange to our immediate neighbors in the solar system; the Space observatory photo A bright aurora over Jupiter’s poles in August 2022, captured this year The rings surrounding Uranus And Saturn.
The last images of Jupiter revealing the jet stream were taken with the Webb near-infrared camera, which revealed that parts of Jupiter’s atmosphere had been disturbed by the jet’s motion. The plane was tracked thanks to wind shears visible in the image, which are places where wind speed in a planet’s atmosphere changes depending on its altitude and distance. The NIRCam image includes several clouds that highlight areas of Jupiter’s equatorial region with features caused by the jet.
According to the researchers, the discovery of the flow near Jupiter’s tropopause – the region at the edge of the troposphere – suggests that the rotation of the planet’s atmosphere around the equator is very similar to the previously known rotation of Saturn.
While Webb can only reveal aspects of Jupiter’s physics from a distance, upcoming missions will get an up-close and personal look at the world. European Space Agency Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, or JUICEIt will observe the gas giant as well as its moons Callisto, Europa and Ganymede, ocean-bearing satellites that astrobiologists believe may exist. Fertile ground for extraterrestrial life. NASA’s Juno spacecraft is already in the Jupiter system, where it has been Imaging the planet and its satellites For years, but the space agency will launch its probe Europa Clipper mission To specifically investigate this icy moon in 2024.
Europa Clipper won’t reach Jupiter’s system until 2030, and JUICE will arrive in 2031, so until then, we’ll have to be happy with Webb’s cool shots from afar.
more: What to know about the JUICE mission to Jupiter and its frozen moons
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