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NASA’s Webb Telescope will study Jupiter, its rings, and two intriguing moons

Cyclone storms encircle Jupiter’s North Pole, captured in infrared light by NASA’s Juno spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM Jupiter, named for the king of the ancient Roman gods, commands its own mini-version of our solar system of circling satellites; their movements convinced Galileo Galilei that Earth is not the center of the universe in the early 17th century. More than 400 years later, astronomers will use NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to observe these famous subjects, pushing the observatory’s instruments to their fullest capabilities and laying the groundwork for far-reaching scientific discovery.

A diverse team of more than 40 researchers, led by astronomers Imke de Pater of the University of California, Berkeley and Thierry Fouchet of the Observatoire de Paris, have designed an ambitious observing program that will conduct some of Webb’s first scientific observations in the solar system —studying Jupiter, its ring system , and two of its moons: Ganymede and Io.

“It will be a really challenging experiment,” said de Pater. “Jupiter is so bright, and Webb’s instruments are so sensitive, that observing both the bright planet and its fainter rings and moons will be an excellent test of how to get the most out of Webb’s innovative technology.”

Jupiter

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