July 14, 2024

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James Webb observes mysterious structures above Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

James Webb observes mysterious structures above Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

Reveal what was not previously visible.

From boredom to exhaustion

The incredible James Webb Space Telescope has been used to image the farthest reaches of the universe. But in a change of pace, astronomers have used its incredible power on a target much closer to Earth: the mighty planet Jupiter — and in doing so, they’ve discovered mysterious features and structures on the gas giant that have never been seen before. Not to mention the incredible fidelity of the James Webb.

As detailed in A Stady Published in the magazine natural astronomy, Scientists have observed a region of the atmosphere hovering above the famous Great Red Spot on Jupiter, a storm massive enough to swallow the Earth, and the largest in the solar system.

But despite its astonishing dimensions, this part of the atmosphere has been neglected by astronomers, who previously considered it uninteresting. Now, they are happy to admit that they were completely wrong.

“We thought, perhaps naively, that this region would be really boring,” Henrik Melin, lead author of the study from the University of Leicester, said in a statement. statement About the work. “It’s actually as interesting as the northern lights, if not more interesting,” he added. “Jupiter never ceases to amaze.”

glow up

The lights Mellen hints at adorn Jupiter’s north and south poles and are easily visible. But there’s a more subtle glow lurking in the upper atmosphere that has proven difficult for ground-based telescopes to observe. It may not be nearly as bright, but its elusiveness is its own charm.

Fortunately, the James Webb Telescope has a unique ability to deal with this problem. It orbits in clear space around the Sun, and is equipped with advanced infrared sensors, such as the Near-Infrared Spectrometer (NIRSPEC), that can detect secrets emitted by even the weakest light sources.

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For example, researchers found all sorts of oddities lurking in observations made in July 2022, including one published by the European Space Agency. Described like Complex structuresAnd “dark arcs” and “bright spots.”

Sandwich area

As the boundary between Jupiter’s lower atmosphere and its powerful magnetic field, the gas giant’s upper atmosphere hosts amazing energetic interactions. The northern and southern lights are thought to be caused by the ejection of volcanic material onto its moon Io.

But researchers suspect that something else entirely is causing this glow above the Great Red Spot: strong gravitational interactions that we rarely see on Earth.

“One way this structure can be changed is through gravity waves – which are like waves hitting a beach, creating ripples in the sand,” Henrik said. “These waves are generated deep in the turbulent lower atmosphere, around the Great Red Spot, and can travel to high altitudes, changing the structure and emissions of the upper atmosphere.”

Astronomers hope that, through continuous monitoring, they will be able to reveal how these waves travel through Jupiter’s atmosphere.

More about space: There appears to be something strange feeding the “immortal” stars at the center of our galaxy