UC Berkeley scientist led team analyzing new NASA Jupiter images

New photos released by NASA Monday show Jupiter as we've never seen it before, in striking detail showing weather patterns, tiny moons, and auroras at the northern and southern poles. 

A Bay Area scientist was the principal investigator.  Imke de Pater, a UC Berkeley professor emerita of astronomy and planetary sciences, led the team of experts who were analyzing the data.

De Pater says the team had proposed the project in 2017.

"Now finally we do get data, and they're quite stunning, so worth waiting for I guess," said Prof. de Pater, smiling as she spoke about the new images.

The images are stunning, providing new data and showing faint rings around Jupiter, two tiny moons, and other unexpected details.

"In the background, we saw these galaxies, which we don't really work on ourselves, but the fact you see galaxies in the background when you take a picture of Jupiter, that's quite stunning I think," said de Pater.

The NASA website states, "In a wide-field view, Webb sees Jupiter with its faint rings, which are a million times fainter than the planet, and two tiny moons called Amalthea and Adrastea. The fuzzy spots in the lower background are likely galaxies "photobombing" this Jovian view."

Thierry Fouchet, a professor at the Paris Observatory, worked with de Pater as part of an international collaboration for Webb’s Early Release Science program.

"This one image sums up the science of our Jupiter system program, which studies the dynamics and chemistry of Jupiter itself, its rings, and its satellite system," said Fouchet.

The images also provide clues as to Jupiter's atmosphere, chemistry, and weather patterns.

"We see a lot of detailed structure from clouds, little storm systems," said Prof. de Pater.

The NASA website credits citizen scientist Judy Schmidt of Modesto, who did painstaking work assembling the images from the James Webb Space Telescope.

"They don't look like this straight from the telescope. There's a lot of image at play," said de Pater.

The telescope captures the images with infrared light filters. Infrared light is invisible to the human eye, so the images were artificially colored with blue, white, green, yellow and orange to make the features stand out in the visible light spectrum.

Also, de Pater says the blur from the rotating planet had to be removed and to get the images and tiny details.

"The big image that you see of Jupiter, only Jupiter, is made up of individual pieces," said de Pater, adding that Judy Schmidt's work was key in rendering the final image, "She made a mosaic of 32 different pieces."

Researchers have already begun analyzing Webb data to get new science results about our solar system’s largest planet.