JAMES WEBB. On Tuesday, August 23, NASA revealed two impressive images of the gas giant Jupiter, taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. Here’s what we see.
[Mis à jour le 25 août 2022 à 12h55] The James Webb Telescope was launched into space about 8 months ago and is once again revealing impressive images of our universe. This Tuesday, August 23, NASA released two stunning images of the 5th planet in the solar system, Jupiter. The postcard-worthy images come from observations by a telescope tool called NiRcam, which is capable of observing in the near infrared, a field invisible to the naked eye.
“It’s truly remarkable to be able to see details of Jupiter with its rings, its small satellites and even galaxies, all in a single image,” enthused astronomer Imke de Pater in a NASA blog post. Planetary scientist James O’Donoghue, who studies the auroras and upper atmosphere of Jupiter, finds that “these are the most beautiful images of Jupiter [qu’il ait] never seen”.
These recently released JWST images of Jupiter blow my mind. Incredible details in the turbulent atmosphere, northern lights at the poles, rings encircling the planet, small moons and even some *galaxies* in the background! pic.twitter.com/fT6571JvtX
— Dr. James O’Donoghue (@physicsJ) 22 August 2022
In the image on the right above from the James Webb Telescope, what strikes the most are these fluorescent lights, which represent Jupiter’s auroras, made up of particles from the Sun reacting to the star’s magnetic field. Then we will clearly notice the “eye of Jupiter”, its great red spot, which looks white in the picture, then its winds, storms and nebulae on the surface. In the picture on the left, we can observe in a larger plane the very fine rings around Jupiter (and yes, it is not only Saturn that has rings among the planets of the solar system) and two moons, Amalthea and Adrastea. Primarily known for its size, its gaseous nature, as well as its famous red spot, Jupiter is an increasingly important astronomical research target. The missions follow each other and gradually reveal the composition of the planet, its characteristics, but also its satellites.
The James Webb Telescope, which is 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, offers astronomers the opportunity to make major discoveries about the formation of galaxies, exoplanets, black holes or even the first moments of the universe’s birth. The result of a collaboration between the US, European and Canadian space agencies, the James Webb Space Telescope is equipped with extremely powerful instruments, making it the most powerful space telescope ever designed. It takes over from the Hubble Space Telescope placed in orbit around the Earth in 1990 and could revolutionize the field of astronomy by providing many answers to the big questions posed by the universe. Let’s go back to the beginning of this telescope’s mission with disproportionate ambitions, the first shots, the total, but also its goals and its operation.
What images of the James Webb telescope?
After several months of testing and calibrating the instruments of the James Webb Telescope, the long-awaited first shot of the James Webb was revealed to the world on Monday, July 11 at 23.00 by US President Joe Biden. The image is spectacular and shows galaxies formed shortly after the Big Bang more than 13 billion years ago…
What is the launch date of the James Webb Telescope?
Launched on December 25, 2021, after 30 years of study and design, the James Webb Space Telescope reached its destination one month later, on January 24, 2022: “Lagrange point L2“, a very stable zone of the solar system. The precision of its launch aboard an Ariane 5 rocket was such a success that NASA decided to extend the duration of the mission by 5 years, as the telescope was just about to begin its transit to its final 6 months later, the deployment of the various instruments that make up the telescope went smoothly, allowing NASA to officially launch the space exploration mission of this jewel of technology, which is the subject of great expectations on the part of the scientific community.
Alongside NASA, mission partners – the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) – participated in the design of various instruments on board the James Webb Telescope, and the European Agency was also responsible for the launch of the telescope aboard a Ariane 5 rocket.
What is James Webb’s trajectory?
After launching aboard an Ariane 5 rocket, the James Webb Telescope has reached its final location. It is now in orbit around Lagrange 2. It therefore orbits around this place, but also around the Sun following the movement of the Earth.
Why is James Webb at the Lagrange point?
After take-off followed by a month-long journey, the James Webb telescope placed itself in orbit around a point in the solar system known as the “Lagrange L2 point”. This point is aligned with the Sun and Earth and allows the telescope to remain fixed relative to these two objects. This point was chosen for its stability, thanks to which the telescope does not need to use a lot of energy to maintain its position.
This location is also a way to keep the telescope instruments cool, since it is located behind the Earth relative to the Sun. However, this position is not enough to keep all its tools at a sufficiently low temperature. Therefore, the telescope also has a huge solar sail to keep its instruments away from the heat.
What is the purpose of the James Webb Telescope?
The James Webb telescope must meet various goals during its mission, which will initially last 5 years but can be extended to 10 years. First, James Webb will observe the first galaxies that appeared right after the Big Bang. He therefore wants to go back in time to understand the formation of these structures and their diversity. The telescope will also study exoplanets and will focus more specifically on their atmospheres, looking for biosignatures, that is, signs of potential traces of life in the compositions of the planets’ atmospheres. Finally, it will keep an eye on an object much closer to us, Sagittarius A black hole located at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. It should thus collect data that will complement those from the network of telescopes that had produced the first image of this black hole in May 2022.
A true gem of technology, the James Webb Telescope is equipped with an enormous mirror 6.5 meters in diameter which concentrates the light it receives. Four different instruments then capture this beam of light and analyze it. These instruments are cameras and spectrometers, tools capable of detecting and analyzing infrared light, invisible to our eyes. It is thanks to this technology that the telescope will especially be able to study distant galaxies formed shortly after the Big Bang.
However, these instruments require an extremely low ambient temperature to function without the heat from its instruments or the environment distorting the results. The James Webb telescope was therefore equipped accordingly. A sun shield the size of a tennis court is designed to protect all measuring tools.
The unprecedented size of this telescope was a real headache to accommodate it in the fairing of the Ariane 5 rocket on board as it left Earth. The mirror is therefore composed of 18 folded segments, which are exposed once in the room with remarkable precision.
What wavelength does the James Webb Telescope use?
The James Webb telescope studies light in wavelengths from 0.6 to 28 micrometers, that is, in the mid- and near-infrared. It is a part of the light that the human eye does not perceive, but which makes it possible to detect very distant and cold objects such as the first galaxies that formed right after the Big Bang.
How fast is James Webb?
James Webb is in orbit around Lagrange point 2, 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. It develops around this point at a speed of about 1 kilometer per second. He thus completes the journey to the Lagrange point in 6 months. At the same time, the telescope accompanies the Earth in its movement around the Sun. It therefore completes a round trip around the Sun in 365 days, just like our planet.
What is the interest of the James Webb telescope compared to the Hubble telescope?
Hubble is an extremely powerful space telescope, which has made it possible to discover a very large number of galaxies and to get completely new images of many nebulae and other celestial bodies. While it was only supposed to last ten years, Hubble, 30 years later, continues to send us spectacular images and improve our knowledge of the universe. “One of Hubble’s most enduring achievements is bringing the wonders of the universe to the general public,” Kenneth Sembach, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, told National Geographic magazine.
Since the 90s, technologies have developed a lot, and James Webb’s modern design makes it an instrument with even greater ambitions than its predecessor. While Hubble is in orbit around Earth, James Webb was located 1.5 million kilometers from our planet. Thanks to this positioning and its advanced instruments, it gains in precision and will be able to observe even older objects. He will also be able to provide details on the structures discovered by Hubble, such as the Carina Nebula photographed by Hubble and then by the James Webb Telescope.
From a technical point of view, the two space telescopes have no common goal. The James Webb telescope is equipped with the largest mirror ever sent into space. At 6.5 meters in diameter, the latter is 3 times larger than Hubble’s. Its sunshield is also of unique size, measuring 22 meters by 12, or 4 times the area of Hubble.
Who made the James Webb telescope?
The James Webb telescope was manufactured by two American manufacturers: Northrop Grumman and Ball between 2009 and 2021. It was designed by three partner space agencies on the project: NASA (the US space agency), ESA (the European Space Agency) and CSA (the Canadian Space Agency). Each agency equipped the telescope with one or more instruments of its design. This is how France developed MIRI, one of the four instruments to discover distant galaxies.
Who Funded James Webb?
The final cost of the James Webb Telescope is up to the disproportionate ambitions of its mission. Estimated at the start of the project at approximately 500 million dollars, the project will have finally cost 10 billion US dollars, which is equivalent to 9 billion euros. This colossal budget was partially supported by the Canadian Agency and the European Space Agency.
Why is the telescope called James Webb?
The name of the telescope was chosen to pay tribute to a NASA administrator, James Edwin Webb. He occupied his functions between 1961 and 1968 during the Apollo program of the American agency, which had the ambition of putting a man on the Moon. His responsibility for the program’s success is widely accepted within NASA.