A photograph of Jupiter using two different filters, taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. Image Credit: (NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI).

The James Webb Space Telescope Also Photographed Jupiter

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope just released the first high-resolution science images, but a document on telescope testing also contained a picture of Jupiter

Several highly-anticipated images have been released from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), including its first look at Jupiter. However, the photographs of the largest planet in our solar system were not part of the batch of long-awaited images. Instead, they were part of the instrument testing the telescope underwent. The document in question, dubbed “Characterization of JWST science performance from commissioning” can be accessed by clicking here.

In the above images of Jupiter, four of its moons can be seen, along with Jupiter’s ring, which was captured as the scientific instruments of JWST were being tested. To the left of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, you can also see the shadow of Europa, Jupiter’s moon.

“Observing a bright planet and its satellites and rings was expected to be challenging, due to scattered light that may affect the science instrument employed, but also the fine guidance sensor must track guide stars near the bright planet,” the commissioning report reads.

In order to focus on two separate wavelengths of light, the NIRCam camera of the telescope used two different filters. The JWST Near-Infrared Camera used a filter that highlights short wavelengths to capture the image on the left. A filter on the right highlights long wavelengths of light in the image on the right. A commissioning report detailing the tests carried out on the science instruments before data collection began was released, along with the findings and the photographs of Jupiter were are able to admire.


Jupiter was photographed as part of a test to ensure that the observatory could track objects moving rapidly through space. This test involved tracking nine moving targets, including Jupiter – the slowest, largest, and most spectacular – and proved that tracking is possible even when a bright planet bounces light into the camera. In addition, several tests showed that JWST is even more effective at tracking fast-moving objects than expected, making it particularly useful for studying comets, near-Earth asteroids, and interstellar objects.

According to the commissioning report, JWST is performing even better than expected.

After six months of commissioning, JWST has proven to be able to make the discoveries for which it was designed. According to the report’s authors, JWST aims to make fundamental discoveries about galaxies, stars, and planetary systems.

In addition to the “unexpected” photographs of Jupiter, the science team behind the James Webb Space Telescope released its first “high definition” images of various objects in deep space, including the first spectrographic analysis of a distant alien world, WASP-96b.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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