James Webb Telescope uncovers surprising structures in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere

Scientists have found intricate features above Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot

Anadolu Agency June 28, 2024
Jupiter's most distinctive feature - a giant red spot, is seen in this April 21, 2014, NASA handout photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of the planet. PHOTO: REUTERS

Astronomers have uncovered unexpected structures in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere using the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced Tuesday.

"Scientists have found intricate features above Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot," said ESA Webb Telescope on X.

Previously thought to be "unremarkable," the region hosts "intricate features, including dark arcs and bright spots," it said in a report.

Read: Hubble captures stunning images of Jupiter

"We thought this region, perhaps naively, would be really boring," said team leader Henrik Melin of the University of Leicester, according to ESA.

"It is in fact just as interesting as the northern lights, if not more so. Jupiter never ceases to surprise," Melin added.

These findings suggest that gravity waves, "similar to waves crashing on a beach," play a significant role in shaping the upper atmosphere's structure, according to Melin.

Team member Imke de Pater of the University of California in Berkeley highlighted the changing understanding of Jupiter's atmosphere.

"One of our objectives had been to investigate why the temperature above the Great Red Spot appeared to be high...However, our new data showed very different results," she said.

ESA also noted that the observations, part of the "Early Release Science" program, utilized "Webb’s Near-InfraRed Spectrograph (NIRSpec) in July 2022."

ESA said these discoveries, published in Nature Astronomy, may aid future missions such as ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice), which launched on April 14, 2023 to study Jupiter and its moons.


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