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Jupiter’s atmosphere around the Great Red Spot (NIRCam and NIRSpec)

New observations of the Great Red Spot on Jupiter have revealed that the planet’s atmosphere above and around the infamous storm is surprisingly interesting and active. This graphic shows the region observed by Webb — first its location on a NIRCam image of the whole planet (left), and the region itself (right), imaged by Webb’s Near-InfraRed Spectrograph (NIRSpec).

The NIRSpec image is stitched together from six NIRSpec Integral Field Unit images taken in July 2022, each around 300 square kilometres, and shows infrared light emitted by hydrogen molecules in Jupiter’s ionosphere. These molecules lie over 300 kilometres above the clouds of the storm, where light from the Sun ionises the hydrogen and stimulates this infrared emission. In this image, redder colours display the hydrogen emission from these high altitudes in the planet’s ionosphere. Bluer colours show infrared light from lower altitudes, including cloud-tops in the atmosphere and the very prominent Great Red Spot. 

Jupiter is distant from the Sun and therefore receives a uniform, low level of daylight, meaning that most of the planet’s surface is relatively dim at these infrared wavelengths — especially compared to the emission from molecules near the poles, where Jupiter’s magnetic field is especially strong. Contrary to the researchers’ expectations that this area would therefore look homogeneous in nature, it hosts a variety of intricate structures, including dark arcs and bright spots, across the entire field of view.

[Image Description: A graphic with two panels. The left side is an infrared image of the planet Jupiter, labelled “Webb/NIRCam”. The planet is shown in multiple colours, especially at the poles, and on the Great Red Spot, visible as a circular storm at the planet’s bottom-right. The Spot is surrounded by a jagged rectangle highlight. The right side shows a close-in image of that area in different colours, labelled “Webb/NIRSpec”. A coloured bar shows that bluer colours on this side show lower altitudes in Jupiter’s atmosphere, and redder colours show higher altitudes.]


ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, Jupiter ERS Team, J. Schmidt, H. Melin, M. Zamani (ESA/Webb)

About the Image

Id: weic2419a
Type: Collage
Release date: 25 June 2024, 10:00
Related releases: weic2419
Size: 3509 x 1661 px

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