First images of red planet Mars released by James Webb Telescope

September 19, 2022

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has released its first images and spectra of Mars from observations made on Sept. 5. The James Webb Telescope, provides a unique perspective with its infrared sensitivity on our neighboring planet, complementing data being collected by orbiters, rovers, and other telescopes. The Webb Telescope provides a view of Mars’ observable disk in order to capture images and spectra with the spectral resolution needed to study phenomena like dust storms, weather patterns, seasonal changes, and, in a single observation of a Martian day.

As Mars is so close, the bright infrared light from Mars is blinding for the telescope, causing a phenomenon known as “detector saturation.” Scientists used very short exposures and special data analysis techniques to capture these images from the James Webb Telescope.

The first images of Mars captured by the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) of James Webb Telescope, show a region of the planet’s eastern hemisphere at two different wavelengths, or colors of infrared light. The image combines a surface reference map from NASA and the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) on the left, with the two Webb NIRCam instrument field of views overlaid. The near-infrared images from Webb are on shown on the right.

The second image shows Webb’s first near-infrared spectrum of Mars, proving Webb’s power to study the Red Planet with Spectroscopy. Analyzing the spectrum shows a rich set of spectral features that detects information about dust, icy clouds, rocks on the surface, and the composition of the atmosphere. The spectral signatures – including deep valleys known as absorption features – of water, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide are easily detected with Webb in these observations.

Mars also known as the Red planet due to iron oxide prevalent on its surface, is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System, with Mercury being the smallest. With two small and irregularly shaped moons: Phobos and Deimos, Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere, and has a crust primarily composed of elements similar to Earth's crust, as well as a core made of iron and nickel. Mars is also a dynamic planet with seasons, polar ice caps, canyons, extinct volcanoes, and evidence that it was even more active in the past. James Webb Space Telescope observed Mars on Sep 05 and Sep 06, 2022.

Credit - NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Mars JWST/GTO team; Full article here