NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Takes Its First Photos of Mars

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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, launched in December 2021 and operating successfully, recently captured its first images of our neighboring planet Mars.

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The telescope, an international collaboration with ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency), offers a unique perspective with its infrared sensitivity on Mars, complementing data collected by orbiters, rovers and other telescopes, NASA said in its blog .

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The official Twitter handle of the NASA Webb Telescope shared the images along with the tweet that read: “Webb got his first look at @NASAMars! The close-up on the left reveals surface features such as Huygens Crater, dark volcanic Syrtis Major and Hellas Basin , while the “heat map” on the right shows the light given off from Mars as it loses heat.”

The NASA Mars Twitter handle shared that tweet, writing: “Rovers, orbiters, telescopes – and now a new, powerful eye looking at the Red Planet. Welcome to the Mars team, @NASAWebb! We can’t wait to see what your observations add to our knowledge of dust storms, weather patterns and seasonal changes!”

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The NASA blog states that Webb’s new images show an area of ​​the planet’s eastern hemisphere with two different wavelengths or colors of infrared light. They were captured by the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam).

This image shows a surface reference map from NASA and the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) on the left, with the two Webb NIRCam instruments superimposed. Webb’s near-infrared images are shown on the right.

Lead researcher, Geronimo Villanueva of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, who designed these Webb observations, and his team also released Webb’s first near-infrared spectrum from Mars, demonstrating Webb’s ability to study the Red Planet with spectroscopy, according to NASA’s NASA report. blog.

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While the images show differences in brightness integrated over a large number of wavelengths from place to place across the planet at any given day and time, the spectrum shows the subtle variations in brightness between hundreds of different wavelengths that are representative of the planet as a whole. Astronomers will analyze the features of the spectrum to gather additional information about the planet’s surface and atmosphere.

According to NASA’s blog, in the future, the Mars team will use this imaging and spectroscopic data to investigate regional differences across the planet and to look for trace gases in the atmosphere, including methane and hydrogen chloride.