The first images from Webb will not contain data from the Solar System, but when we will see them?

Credit image: NASA
Credit image: NASA

Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 04 July 2022, at 11:16 am Los Angeles time

Uranus and Neptune are two of the many mysterious celestial objects in the solar system that the James Webb Space Telescope will soon begin exploring. Temperature and pressure conditions are so extreme on these planets that carbon atoms can turn into diamonds in their atmosphere. Astrophysicist Naomi Rowe-Gurney, who specializes in studying the two planets, explains the process in an interview posted on NASA's website.

"I love the ice giants. I think I love them mostly because they haven't been looked at very much. I initially wanted to do my PhD on these two planets because there were so many unanswered questions. And we just really don't know even like the fundamentals of where they came from, and why they are the way they are, and why they're called ice giants. I mean, people are still kind of debating that name and whether it's appropriate and whether they should really be called rock giants, because who knows what's inside?"

Rowe Gurney says Uranus and Neptune are blue because they have high levels of methane in their atmosphere.

The astrophysicist explained that methane contains carbon, which can be crushed by the huge pressures that take place in the atmosphere, forming diamonds. Inside the planet, when everything becomes very hot and very dense, these diamonds form and accumulate, then become heavier.

"And what we see there is that the Sun interacts with the methane in the atmosphere, and it breaks down the methane into lots of different hydrocarbons. So lots of these chains of different things with hydrogen and carbon in [them], with lots of fancy names like diacetylene and acetylene and methylacetylene, all of these. And we still don't really know everything, like the composition of everything that's in there, and we're still finding new things all the time. And that's why the JWST is so exciting, because we are going to be able to see a lot more of what's going on, and a lot more of these like complex hydrocarbons and things," continued Rowe.

Also, she explains when we will see the first data from Webb about our solar system.

"So it won't be part of those first images that come out on the 12th of July. But we will actually start to look at solar system objects. It's just those images won't be released to scientists until after that 12th of July date, and then they won't be released as, kind of, science or anything until our scientists have done their analysis and calibration and everything. So probably, we'll see those first things come out at the end of the summer, I would say, is optimistic," explained Rowe in detail.

The whole interview can be seen here.

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