JWST Reveals Its First Images Of Mars


The first photographs of Mars captured by JWST, which show our nearest planetary neighbour from a previously unseen perspective, have recently been made public by astronomers.


The just published pictures were taken on September 5, 2022, by JWST, and they show a section of the eastern hemisphere of the Red Planet. This features a look at Hellas Basin, one of the Solar System's deepest impact craters at about 7,152 metres (23,465 ft).


The Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) of the space telescope captured the picture at two different wavelengths. The left-hand image is only a surface reference map produced using information from NASA and the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA). It resembles visible-light images because it is mostly made up of reflected sunlight.


Two JWST near-infrared images are seen on the right. A wavelength just outside of what humans can perceive is called near infrared. Since infrared light can penetrate gas and dust more easily than visible light, JWST is able to observe the cosmos more deeply than any other observatory. Scientists may examine a variety of events on the Martian surface, including as dust storms, weather patterns, and seasonal changes, by tuning into this wavelength.


The temperature of the surface and the atmosphere affect the brightness of the light, which decreases toward the poles where there is less sunshine.


Since the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Mars can affect how heat is stored and absorbed, it is also possible to utilise this near-infrared image to learn about the makeup of Mars' atmosphere. You may be able to make out a patch of darkness over the Hellas Basin due to atmospheric forces.


Geronimo Villanueva, the senior investigator for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, stated in a statement that "this is actually not a thermal effect at Hellas."


Because of its lower altitude, the Hellas Basin has higher air pressure. Due to a phenomenon known as pressure widening, the higher pressure causes the thermal emission at this specific wavelength range [4.1-4.4 microns] to be suppressed. The process of disentangling these conflicting impacts in these data.


At first glance, taking a picture of Mars might not seem like a noteworthy achievement, especially not for the most powerful and expensive space telescope in existence. JWST, which was built to detect the incredibly weak flickers of light in the universe's most distant galaxies, has difficulty seeing an object as bright and close as Mars.


It was able to capture the Red Planet, which would ordinarily be too bright for the telescope's ultra-sensitive technology, by employing unique procedures and brief exposures.


At Earth's second "Lagrange point" (L2), which is about 1.5 million kilometres (nearly 1 million miles) away, JWST is currently "behind" our planet when viewed from the Sun. Christmas Day 2021 saw the JWST launch to this location; its first colour photographs were revealed in July 2022, showing some amazing images of enormous galaxy clusters and gorgeous nebula.


There have already been images taken of other Solar System members as well. The first Jupiter photographs from JWST were released last month, showing the planet's rings, several of its moons, and even aurorae.


Only a few months have passed since JWST has been fully operating, but the results of its labour have already been outstanding, and the best is yet to come.

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