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

Reveal what was previously invisible.

Bored to the floors

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

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

Despite its enormous dimensions, this part of the atmosphere has been ignored by astronomers, who previously described it as uninteresting. Now, they are happy to admit that they were completely wrong.

“We thought, perhaps naively, that this area would be really boring,” said Henrik Melin, lead author of the study from the University of Leicester. 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

Those lights that Mellin alluded to adorn Jupiter’s north and south poles and can be easily seen. But there is a more subtle glow present in the upper atmosphere that has proven difficult for ground-based telescopes to observe. It may not be nearly as flashy, but the elusiveness is its special appeal.

Fortunately, the James Webb Telescope has a unique ability to deal with this problem. It orbits in the clear space around the sun, and is equipped with advanced infrared sensors, such as the Near Infrared Spectroradiometer (NIRSPEC), which can detect the secrets emanating from even the faintest 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

Since Jupiter’s upper atmosphere forms the boundary between Jupiter’s lower atmosphere and its strong magnetic field, it hosts amazing energy interactions. The northern and southern lights are believed to be caused by the ejection of volcanic material on 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 you can change this structure is with gravity waves, similar to waves crashing on a beach, creating ripples in the sand,” Henriques said. “These waves are generated deep in the turbulent lower atmosphere, around the Great Red Spot, and can travel upward, changing the structure and emissions of the upper atmosphere.”

With follow-up observations, astronomers hope to reveal how these waves travel through Jupiter’s atmosphere.

More about space: Something strange seems to be powering the ‘immortal’ stars at the center of our galaxy.

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