NASA's James Webb Space Telescope unveils breathtaking view of Saturn | Tech News

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope unveils breathtaking view of Saturn

James Webb Space Telescope has turned its attention towards the stunning planet Saturn, capturing its first ever near-infrared observations. And these are simply amazing!

| Updated on: Jul 02 2023, 12:18 IST
Earth to witness a RARE PHENOMENON! Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn forming a straight line NOW
1/6 According to Subhendu Pattnaik, Deputy Director, Pathani Samanta Planetarium, Bhubaneswar, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will align in a straight line in the eastern sky for around one hour before the sunrise during this rare phenomenon. (Pixabay)
2/6 Speaking to ANI, Subhendu Pattnaik said, "During the last week of April 2022, a rare and unique planet alignment will occur, which is popularly known as 'planet parade'' Although there is no scientific definition for 'planet parade', it is being widely used in astronomy to denote an event that takes place when planets of the solar system line up in a row in the same area of the sky." (Pixabay)
3/6 He explained about three planet parades. The first occurs when planets line up on one side of the Sun as seen up above the plane of our solar system. This is the most common among all of them and can happen multiple times in a year. (Pixabay)
4/6 Pattnaik said, "Secondly, when some planets appear in a small sector of the sky at the same time regardless of their visibility conditions, from Earth's point of view we term the event also as a planet parade. A planet parade of this type last happened on April 18, 2002 and July 2020 when all planets of the Solar system that are visible to the naked eye lined up in a row in the evening sky.” (Pixabay)
5/6 The third type of planet parade is on rare occasions where there are favourable conditions for observation of all or some of the planets. "During the last week of April 2022, a rare and unique planet parade will take place when Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will line up in the eastern sky around one hour before sunrise. This will be a planet parade of the third kind as described above. The last such parade of these planets occurred in 947 AD around 1,000 years ago," Pattnaik said. (AFP)
6/6 He further explained to ANI that, "One hour before sunrise on April 26 and 27, the moon along with four planets will be visible within 30 degrees from the eastern horizon in a near-perfect straight line. If the conditions are right, one can see Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Saturn in a line without the need for binoculars or telescopes. On April 30, the brightest planets - Venus and Jupiter - can be seen very close together. Venus will be 0.2 degrees south of Jupiter.” (NASA)
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Image of Saturn and some of its moons, captured by the James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam instrument on June 25, 2023. (NASA/ESA/CSA/JWST/STScI)

In a remarkable moment on June 25, 2023, the renowned James Webb Space Telescope, operated by NASA, turned its attention towards the planet Saturn, capturing its first ever near-infrared observations. The initial imagery obtained through Webb's advanced Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) has already captivated researchers, revealing intriguing features within Saturn's atmosphere that were previously unseen.

Thaddeus Cesari, a Strategic Communications Specialist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, penned a blog post expressing the unique allure of Saturn in the infrared picture. In this wavelength, Saturn appears remarkably dark due to the methane gas in its atmosphere absorbing sunlight. However, the planet's icy rings remain brightly visible, creating a visually striking appearance in Webb's image.

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The image released by NASA showcases intricate details within Saturn's mesmerising ring system, even offering glimpses of some of its moons, such as Dione, Enceladus, and Tethys. The research team plans to conduct deeper exposures, hoping to explore the planet's fainter rings, including the elusive G ring and the diffuse E ring, which remain hidden in this particular image.

Saturn's rings, composed of a diverse array of rocky and icy fragments ranging in size from minuscule grains of sand to colossal mountains, have long been a source of fascination for scientists and stargazers alike. This new image from Webb provides a unique perspective on their composition and structure, shedding new light on their mysterious nature.

Apart from the rings, Saturn's atmosphere also reveals astonishing and intricate details in this unprecedented clarity at the wavelength of 3.23 microns, a capability unique to the James Webb Space Telescope. The presence of huge, dark, and diffuse features in the northern hemisphere undermines Saturn's deeper atmospheric layers' traditional striped look.

This captivating image of Saturn and its enigmatic rings was captured as part of the Webb Guaranteed Time Observation Programme 1247, showcasing the immense potential of the telescope in unravelling the mysteries of our celestial neighbours. As experts probe further into Webb's data and photos, they eagerly await new disclosures regarding the secrets hidden within Saturn's atmosphere and enthralling ring system.

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First Published Date: 02 Jul, 12:01 IST