NASA has already set the first target for its James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) which is currently set to launch in May 2020. The space telescope’s first target will be Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, the enigmatic iconic storm that has been active on the planet for more than 350 years. The storm has been monitored since 1830.
University of Leicester researcher Leigh Fletcher, who is the lead scientist for JWST’s Great Red Spot observations, along with his research team will use Webb’s mid-infrared instrument (MIRI) to create multispectral maps of the Great Red Spot and analyze its thermal, chemical and cloud structures. The MIRI will be used to focus on observations in the five to seven micrometer range, the electromagnetic spectrum which has never been observed before.
According to NASA, even the most powerful telescopes on Earth cannot detect these wavelengths. So, studying these wavelengths will enable scientists to see the large storm’s chemical byproducts, which could offer more details about Great Red Spot’s composition.
Furthermore, the researchers are hoping that the infrared observations will provide insight into the Great Red Spot’s unique color, which is the result of Sun’s ultraviolet radiation interacting with chemicals such as sulfur, nitrogen, and phosphorus, which originates deep within the storm and are lifted from Jupiter’s deeper atmosphere by powerful atmospheric currents.
JWST is considered as the most complex space telescope ever built. It has been developed by NASA in collaboration with the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. The telescope is expected to use its infrared capability to return data that could build on previous observations of the storm by the Hubble Space Telescope and other smaller observatories.
JWST’s mission goals are to observe and study planets, exoplanets, and novas, study star formation as well as the formation of the universe’s earliest galaxies.