James Webb Provides FIRST Look at Mars That Reveals Elements of the Red Planet’s Atmosphere

The James Webb Space Telescope has released its first images of March – offering a unique and more detailed look at the atmosphere of the red planet.

The giant telescope, which sits almost a million miles from Earth, is giving scientists and the public a glimpse of Mars’ observable disk, the part of the planet’s sunlit side faces.

Webb’s first photos of Mars were captured by his near-infrared camera (NIRCam). They represent a region of the planet’s eastern hemisphere at two different wavelengths, or colors of infrared light.

The Red Planet is one of the brightest objects in the night sky due to its relative proximity to Earth, but that poses challenges for the JWST – which was built to detect the faintest light from distant galaxies in the Earth. universe.

The James Webb Space Telescope has released its first images of Mars. The first image shows a NASA surface reference map and the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) on the left, with the two fields of view of the Webb NIRCam instrument overlaid. The two near-infrared images of Webb are on the right

The first image shows a NASA surface reference map and the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) on the left, with the two fields of view of the Webb NIRCam instrument overlaid. Webb’s two near-infrared images are on the right.

The shorter wavelength NIRCam image is dominated by reflected sunlight and thus reveals surface detail similar to that apparent in visible light images.

The rings of the Huygens Crater (the fifth largest impact crater on the planet named after astronomer Christiaan Huygens), the dark volcanic rock of Syrtis Major (a well-known dark spot) and the brightening of the Hellas Basin are all apparent in this image. The basin is the largest well-preserved impact structure on Mars, spanning more than 1,200 miles, the space agency notes.

When light emitted by the planet passes through Mars’ atmosphere, some is absorbed by carbon dioxide (CO2) molecules, causing the Hellas Basin appear darker than the surroundings because of this effect.

The Red Planet is one of the brightest objects in the night sky due to its relative proximity to Earth, but that poses challenges for the JWST - which was built to detect the faintest light from distant galaxies in the Earth. universe.

The Red Planet is one of the brightest objects in the night sky due to its relative proximity to Earth, but that poses challenges for the JWST – which was built to detect the faintest light from distant galaxies in the Earth. universe.

The rings of the Huygens crater, the dark volcanic rock of Syrtis Major, and the brightening of the Hellas Basin are all apparent in this image.  The basin is the largest well-preserved impact structure on Mars, spanning more than 1,200 miles, the space agency notes.

The rings of the Huygens crater, the dark volcanic rock of Syrtis Major, and the brightening of the Hellas Basin are all apparent in this image. The basin is the largest well-preserved impact structure on Mars, spanning more than 1,200 miles, the space agency notes.

“It’s actually not a thermal effect at Hellas,” says lead researcher Geronimo Villanueva of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, who engineered these Webb observations.

“The Hellas Basin is at a lower elevation and therefore experiences higher atmospheric pressure. This higher pressure results in a suppression of thermal emission in that particular wavelength range due to an effect called pressure broadening. It will be very interesting to disentangle these competing effects in these data.

Villanueva and her team also published Webb’s first near-infrared spectrum of Mars, which shows minute variations in brightness between hundreds of different wavelengths.

“It’s actually not a thermal effect at Hellas,” says lead researcher Geronimo Villanueva of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, who engineered these Webb observations.

“The Hellas Basin is at a lower elevation and therefore experiences higher atmospheric pressure.  This higher pressure results in a suppression of thermal emission in that particular wavelength range due to an effect called pressure broadening.  It will be very interesting to disentangle these competing effects in these data'

“The Hellas Basin is at a lower elevation and therefore experiences higher atmospheric pressure. This higher pressure results in a suppression of thermal emission in that particular wavelength range due to an effect called pressure broadening. It will be very interesting to disentangle these competing effects in these data’

“Preliminary spectrum analysis shows a rich set of spectral features containing information about dust, icy clouds, the type of rocks on the planet’s surface, and the composition of the atmosphere,” explains the Nasa.

“The spectral signatures – including deep valleys called absorption features – of water, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide are easily detected with Webb.”

The US space agency also noted that Webb’s instruments are so sensitive that they require special techniques to avoid what is called “detector saturation” due to the bright infrared light from Mars.

Astronomers can adapt to this by using short exposures to measure only part of the light hitting the detectors and applying “special data analysis techniques”.

“Preliminary spectrum analysis shows a rich set of spectral features containing information about dust, icy clouds, type of rocks on the planet’s surface, and composition of the atmosphere,” says the Nasa.

NASA explained the telescope’s view in a statement: “Webb can capture images and spectra with the spectral resolution needed to study near-term phenomena such as dust storms, weather patterns, seasonal changes and , in a single observation, the processes that occur at different times”. (day, sunset and night) of a Martian day.

The new images leverage data from Webb science that is still ongoing and has not yet been peer reviewed.

Last week Webb captured a stunning image of the Orion Nebula which formed 4.5 billion years ago.

This image showed an open cluster of massive young stars that shape the cloud of dust and gas with its intense radiation and dense filaments that can play a key role in the birth of new stars.

The nebula was previously photographed by the Hubble telescope in 2004, but that device uses visible light and its view has been obscured by large amounts of stardust.

JWST, however, detects infrared light from the cosmos, allowing observers to see through these layers of dust and peer into its cosmic center – a region just seen by human eyes.

Last week the Webb captured a stunning image of the Orion Nebula which formed 4.5 billion years ago (above)

Last week the Webb captured a stunning image of the Orion Nebula which formed 4.5 billion years ago (above)

This image showed an open cluster of massive young stars that shape the cloud of dust and gas with its intense radiation and dense filaments that can play a key role in the birth of new stars.

This image showed an open cluster of massive young stars that shape the cloud of dust and gas with its intense radiation and dense filaments that can play a key role in the birth of new stars.