Blinding light from Mars spotted by Webb telescope Pipa News

Blinding light from Mars spotted by Webb telescope

The The main purpose of the James Webb Space Telescope is to detect faint light from distant galaxies, but it has recently observed one of the brightest objects in the night sky: Mars.

The space observatory took its first images and data of the red planet on September 5.

Multiple orbiters over Mars, and the land-bound robbers Curiosity and perseverance, roam the surface, regularly returning insights. Webb’s infrared capabilities add another perspective that could reveal details about Mars’ surface and atmosphere.

Located a million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth, Webb can see the sunlit side of Mars that faces the space telescope, putting the observatory in the perfect position to monitor the planet’s seasonal changes, dust storms and weather. spy at once.

The telescope is so sensitive that astronomers had to make adjustments to prevent the blinding infrared light from Mars from saturating Webb’s detectors. Instead, Webb observed Mars with very short exposures.

Show the new images The Eastern Hemisphere of Mars in different wavelengths of infrared light. On the left is a reference map of the hemisphere captured by the Mars Global Surveyor mission, which ended in 2006.

The top right image from Webb shows reflected sunlight on the surface of Mars, with features from Mars such as Huygens Crater, dark volcanic rock, and Hellas Planitia, a massive impact crater on the red planet stretching more than 2,000 kilometers. .

The image at the bottom right shows the thermal emission from Mars, or the light emitted by the planet as it loses heat. The brightest areas indicate the warmest spots. In addition, astronomers saw something else in the thermal emission picture.

When this thermal light passes through the Martian atmosphere, some of it is absorbed by carbon dioxide molecules. This phenomenon has made the Hellas Planitia darker.

“This is actually not a thermal effect at Hellas,” Geronimo Villanueva, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement.

“The Hellas Basin is lower and thus experiences higher air pressure,” said Villanueva, who is also the principal investigator of Mars and Ocean Worlds studies for Webb. “That higher pressure leads to a suppression of the thermal emission at this particular wavelength range due to an effect called pressure broadening. It will be very interesting to break apart these competing effects in this data.”

Using Webb’s powerful capabilities, Villanueva and his team also captured Mars’ first near-infrared spectrum.

The spectrum points to more subtle differences in brightness across the planet, which could highlight aspects of Mars’ surface and atmosphere. Initial analysis has provided information on icy clouds, dust, surface rocks and the composition of the atmosphere in the spectrum. There are also signatures of water, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.

The NASA research team will share more on Webb’s observations of Mars in a study to be submitted for peer review and publication in the future. And the Mars team is looking forward to using Webb’s abilities to spot the differences between regions on the red planet and look for gases like methane and hydrogen chloride in the atmosphere.

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