Scientists poring over stunning images of Jupiter taken by the James Webb Space Telescope in July 2022 discovered a feature they hadn’t noticed before: a huge, fast-moving jet stream flowing around the giant planet’s equator. discovered.
Jupiter has always been an attractive target for astronomers. Each new telescope is aimed at the giant planet to further investigate its cloud belt’s active weather and giant anticyclonic storm, the Great Red Spot. Even spacecraft like Voyager, Cassini, and New Horizons have taken images of Jupiter during their approaches, and NASA’s Juno spacecraft sends back close-up photos each time it orbits the planet.
So it was no surprise that astronomers pointed the James Webb Space Telescope in that direction, revealing an astonishing high-resolution look at some of the solar system’s most active weather.
This view of heat radiating from Jupiter’s cloud belts was captured in July 2022 by the James Webb Space Telescope’s infrared camera. Credit: NASA, ESA, Jupiter ERS Team. Image processing by Ricardo Hueso (UPV/EHU) and Judy Schmidt
However, this photo wasn’t just to show off the JWST’s capabilities. An international team of scientists collected the high-resolution details revealed by Webb and compared them with images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in the following days.
Their careful investigation uncovered new features that had been overlooked by previous observations. The idea was that Jupiter has a huge jet stream flowing around its equator.
This infrared image of Jupiter from the James Webb Space Telescope is annotated with arrows showing wind speeds in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere as measured by Webb (red) and winds along cloud tops as measured by Hubble (blue). It is being The high-altitude jet stream above the equator detected in JWST images is moving at twice the speed of the cloud tops 35 km below. Credit: MH Wong, University of California, Berkeley. R. Hueso, University of the Basque Country. NASA; ESA; CSA; STScI; I. de Peyter, University of California, Berkeley. T. Fouché, Paris Observatory. L. Fletcher, University of Leicester
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The previously undetected jet stream has a diameter of about 4,800 kilometers and wind speeds of more than 500 kilometers per hour, researchers said. By comparison, this is more than 10 times as large and roughly twice as fast as a typical jet stream on Earth.