James Webb Provides First Look at Mars Revealing Elements of the Red Planet’s Atmosphere

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

The giant telescope, located nearly a million miles from Earth, is giving scientists and the public a glimpse of Mars’ visible disk – that is, part of the planet’s sunlit side.

The first web images of Mars were taken by the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam). They depict a region of the planet’s eastern hemisphere at two different wavelengths, or the 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 this presents challenges for the JWST planet – which was built to detect the faint light from distant galaxies in the universe.

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

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

Reflected sunlight dominates the shorter wavelength NIRCam image, thus revealing surface details similar to those seen in visible-light images.

The rings of Huygens Crater (the planet’s fifth largest impact crater named after astronomer Christian Huygens), dark igneous rocks from Sirtes Major (a well-known dark spot), and brightness in the Hellas Basin are all visible in this image. The space agency reports that the basin is the largest and well-preserved impact structure on Mars, extending more than 1,200 miles.

When light from the planet passes through the Martian atmosphere, some of it is absorbed by carbon dioxide (CO2) molecules, causing the Hellas Basin to collapse. They appear darker than the surroundings due to this effect.

The red planet is one of the brightest objects in the night sky due to its relative proximity to Earth, but this presents challenges for the JWST planet - which was created to detect the faint light from distant galaxies in the universe.

The red planet is one of the brightest objects in the night sky due to its relative proximity to Earth, but this presents challenges for the JWST planet – which was created to detect the faint light from distant galaxies in the universe.

The Huygens Crater rings, dark igneous rocks in Syrtis Major, and brightness in the Hellas Basin are visible in this image.  The space agency notes that the basin is the largest and well-preserved impact structure on Mars, spanning more than 1,200 miles

The Huygens Crater rings, dark igneous rocks in Syrtis Major, and brightness in the Hellas Basin are visible in this image. The space agency notes that the basin is the largest and well-preserved impact structure on Mars, spanning more than 1,200 miles

“This is actually not a heat effect in Hellas,” explains lead researcher Jeronimo Villanueva of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, who designed these Webb observations.

The Hellas Basin is located at a lower altitude, and therefore experiences higher air pressure. This high pressure suppresses heat emission at this specific wavelength range due to an effect called pressure broadening. It would be interesting to separate these competing effects in this data.

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

``This is actually not a heat effect in Hellas,'' explains lead researcher Jeronimo Villanueva of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, who designed these Webb observations.

“This is actually not a heat effect in Hellas,” explains lead researcher Jeronimo Villanueva of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, who designed these Webb observations.

The Hellas Basin is located at a lower altitude, and therefore experiences higher air pressure.  This high pressure suppresses heat emission at this specific wavelength range due to an effect called pressure broadening.  It would be interesting to separate these competing effects in this data'

The Hellas Basin is located at a lower altitude, and therefore experiences higher air pressure. This high pressure suppresses heat emission at this specific wavelength range due to an effect called pressure broadening. It would be interesting to separate these competing effects in this data’

“Initial analysis of the spectrum shows a rich set of spectral features that contain information about dust, ice clouds, the type of rock on the planet’s surface, and the composition of the atmosphere,” NASA says.

“Spectral signals – including deep valleys known for their absorption properties – of water, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide can be easily detected with Webb.”

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

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

NASA says: ``Initial analysis of the spectrum shows a rich set of spectral features that contain information about dust, ice clouds, the type of rock on the planet's surface, and the composition of the atmosphere.

NASA says: “Initial analysis of the spectrum shows a rich set of spectral features that contain information about dust, ice clouds, the type of rock on the planet’s surface, and the composition of the atmosphere.

NASA’s perspective telescope explained in a statement: “Webb can capture images and spectra with the spectral resolution needed to study short-term phenomena such as dust storms, weather patterns, seasonal variations, and, in one observation, processes that occur at different times. (Day, sunset, and night) Mars day.

The new images harness 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.

That image showed an open group of young, massive stars that make up the dust and gas cloud, with their intense radiation and dense filaments that may play a major role in the birth of new stars.

The nebula was previously imaged by the Hubble Telescope in 2004, but this instrument uses visible light and its view is obscured by large amounts of stardust.

However, JWST detects infrared light of the universe, allowing observers to see these layers of dust and look back at its cosmic center – an area just seen with the human eye.

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

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

That image showed an open group of young, massive stars that make up the dust and gas cloud, with their intense radiation and dense filaments that may play a major role in the birth of new stars.

That image showed an open group of young, massive stars that make up the dust and gas cloud, with their intense radiation and dense filaments that may play a major role in the birth of new stars.

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