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Here are JWST’s First Images of Saturn

Universe Now

It’s Saturn.

JWST aims its powerful, gold-coated, segmented beryllium mirror at the second largest planet, and perhaps the most remarkable planet of our Solar System. So far, we’ve only gotten a sneak preview of the raw images without any processing or scientific commentary.

But they are a start.

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We’re used to beautiful images of Saturn from the Hubble Space Telescope, especially as part of its OPAL (Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy) observing program. Those images are not only rich in science, they’re also eye candy for the rest of us. But that’s not what the new Saturn images from JWST are about.

This Hubble Space Telescope image captures exquisite details of Saturn and its ring system.  It is from 2019 and is part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) project.  Image Credits: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (GSFC), MH Wong (University of California, Berkeley) and the OPAL Team
This Hubble Space Telescope image captures exquisite details of Saturn and its ring system. It is from 2019 and is part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) project. Image Credits: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (GSFC), MH Wong (University of California, Berkeley) and the OPAL Team

These images are from a proposal that tests JWST’s NIRCAM instrument and its ability to detect faint moons around bright planets like Saturn. Saturn has 146 confirmed moons, not counting the thousands of moonlets embedded in its rings. But there may be other identifiable moons lurking beyond the reach of our previous technology. JWST will find them.

Not only that, but finding faint moons around Saturn can help find faint moons around other planets, even other solar systems. “Deep spectra of selected small moons of Saturn (Epimetheus, Pandora, Pallene, and Telesto) with the NIRSpec IFU will test JWST’s capacity to obtain deep spectra of faint targets near the bright planet, which will be useful for ERS (Early Release Science) and GO (General Observers) of other planetary systems,” explains the proposal description.

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Ouch.  My eyes!  This one needs some processing, but it's clearly Saturn.  What else does it look like?  Image Credit: Image Credit: NASA/CSA/ESA/STScI
Ouch! My eyes! This one needs some processing, but it’s clearly Saturn. What else does it look like? Image Credit: Image Credit: NASA/CSA/ESA/STScI

These images are a peek behind the curtain of polished press releases and processed images—and scientific commentary. But they are attractive in their own way. For one thing, it shows how much work goes into turning raw images and data into something relevant.

Remember the ‘Cosmic Cliffs’ JWST image from last summer? It is a combination of images captured with the telescope’s MIRI and NIRCAM instruments with different filters.

JWST captured this stunning image of a portion of the Carina Nebula dubbed the 'Cosmic Cliffs' in July, 2022. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI
JWST captured this stunning image of a portion of the Carina Nebula dubbed the ‘Cosmic Cliffs’ in July, 2022. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

But the raw images look very different. Here is one of them.

JWST captured this raw image of NGC 3324, the Carina Nebula, with its MIRI instrument and the F1130W filter.  It only begins to take shape when processed and combined with other images.  Photo Credit.  NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI
JWST captured this raw image of NGC 3324, the Carina Nebula, with its MIRI instrument and the F1130W filter. It only begins to take shape when processed and combined with other images. Photo Credit. NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

Here’s another one, and it looks more like what we’re used to seeing in press releases and on websites.

Another raw JWST image of the 'Cosmic Cliffs' feature in NGC 3324. This one was captured using NIRCAM and its F444W filter.  Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI
Another raw JWST image of the ‘Cosmic Cliffs’ feature in NGC 3324. This one was captured using NIRCAM and its F444W filter. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

If JWST’s images of Jupiter from a year ago are any indication, then once these raw images are processed, we’re in for a spectacular display. JWST showed us Jupiter like we’d never seen before, and the images were stunning, something we’ve come to expect from the telescope.

This JWST image of Jupiter almost jumps off the screen. We can’t wait to see pictures of it and Saturn once they get the same treatment. Image Credit: NASA/CSA/ESA/STScI

There is a cadre of talented astronomical image processors, including Judy Schmidt (aka Geckzilla), Kevin Gill, and others, who will no doubt bring these images of Saturn to life with their artistry. Who knows? Perhaps they have already got hold of them and are busy preparing them for us.

Stay focused.


#JWSTs #Images #Saturn

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As a seasoned content writer for our company blog, Ann brings a unique blend of creativity, research prowess, and an unwavering commitment to delivering engaging and informative content. With a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of our target audience, she effortlessly crafts articles that educate, inspire, and captivate our readers.

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