Webb Space Telescope shows Jupiter like Hubble never did

It can see things we have never seen before.
Ameya Paleja
Images of Jupiter taken from JWST and Hubble
Images of Jupiter taken from JWST and Hubble

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Nine months after it was launched, every little thing that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) does becomes news. A comparison of Jupiter's images taken by this telescope and the good old Hubble shows us why the newly launched telescope is special, Business Insider reported.

It is common thought that the James Webb Space Telescope is the replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope. However, NASA did not spend $10 billion and send a telescope a million miles away from Earth just so that it could take pictures of space with a different camera. Using its learnings from the Hubble mission, NASA has ensured that the JWST "goes beyond" what the Hubble has done so far, both literally as well as in terms of wavelengths it can capture.

Last month, we brought you the images of Jupiter that JWST took and how they showed details that we hadn't seen before. The brightly colored auroras and dense clouds looked great in that image. However, to see the superiority of these captures, one needs to compare the images with those taken by Hubble.

Auroras on Jupiter

Auroras are common sights near the poles on Earth, and since Jupiter has an atmosphere too, it is not surprising that the solar system's largest planet also has a similar phenomenon to boast about.

Astronomers were interested in looking at what auroras on Jupiter looked like and snapped up the planet in ultraviolet light with the Hubble Space Telescope to view them. Less than a decade later, the JWST captured the auroras with a near-infrared camera (NIRCam). With a little bit of artificial coloring, scientists were able to discern the details of these lights on the planet whose magnetic field is 20,000 times that of the Earth.

Spotting Jupiter's smaller moons and faint rings

Everybody knows about Jupiter's Europa and how it has an icy crust and a thin atmosphere mainly consisting of oxygen. The Hubble sent us images of this moon that is nearly 2,000 miles (3,122 km) wide, but it has only managed to capture barely visible images of the smaller moons and their faint shadows. By comparison, JWST brought us the images of much smaller moons, Adrastea and Amalthea, the smallest of which is barely 12 miles (19 km) across.

Not just small moons, the JWST also captured the faint rings composed of dust particles that rose as a result of cosmic debris collision on Jupiter's moons. The JWST's ability to use its NIRCam to peer beyond the cosmic dust also brought us images of distant galaxies behind Jupiter that were not visible in Hubble's images. Scientists are hopeful that this ability will help them peer back in time to the light emitted by the early galaxies the first billion years after the Big Bang.

In all fairness to Hubble, the JWST's primary mirror is six times larger, which gives it a 15x coverage and better spatial resolution than the Hubble.

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