NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, also known as the most powerful telescope ever made, has captured its first images of Mars and the information gathered from these pictures is quite interesting. Let’s dive into the details.
What do the images captured tell about Mars?
The images give a broader perspective of short-term occurrences on Mars like dust storms or even weather patterns. The first image shows three lighter brown patches on the left, right, and bottom left corners, which break up the dark brown color. The arrows indicate the locations of the various features, such as the Huygens Crater, the Hellas Basin, and the black volcanic rock known as Syrtis Major.
The purple hue and the red on the “heat map” in the second image depict the northern hemisphere of the neighbour planet. the Hellas basin is demarcated as the orange in yellow is made darker by the atmospheric phenomenon. Brighter, warmer climates are represented by orange and yellow.
The third image of Mars shows the planet’s atmosphere. The data collected by NASA’s James Webb NIRSpec instrument revealed various water signatures, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide emissions. Scientists can now study the planet’s surface features and clouds by analyzing this data.
What does Webb’s first spectrum of Mars reveal?
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has made numerous observations of Mars, and its principal investigator Geronimo Villanueva and his team recently published the first near-infrared spectrum of the planet.
The spectrum reveals the subtle differences in brightness between different wavelengths that represent the planet as a whole. This is compared to the images, which show the differences in brightness across a vast number of wavelengths at a specific time and place. Astronomers will study the spectrum’s characteristics to learn more about the planet’s atmosphere and surface.
The spectral features of Mars are collected during the early stages of the spectrum analysis. They provide information about the various characteristics of the planet’s atmosphere and surface.
The deep valleys in the spectrum are the result of the body’s spectral signature. Webb has easily detected the spectral signatures of water, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide.
The astronomers are working on the data collected by Webb. They will then submit their paper for peer review and publication.
Challenges faced by James Webb Telescope to capture Mars
The red planet is extremely bright for the telescope to detect. Mars appears to be the brightest object in the night sky that even meets the human eyes millions of km away. But since the observatory is designed to detect the faint light of distant galaxies. Since Mars is a bright object, Webb has a hard time handling its infrared light. This results in a phenomenon known as “detector saturation”.
To get the best possible picture of the planet, astronomers used very short exposures. They measured the light that hits the instruments’ detectors, and they also used data analysis techniques to adjust the brightness.