NASA James Webb Space Telescope snaps first images of Mars; Reveals atmospheric secrets | Tech News

NASA James Webb Space Telescope snaps first images of Mars; Reveals atmospheric secrets

The NASA James Webb Space Telescope has reached another milestone after taking the first images of Mars. The images reveal big secrets about its atmosphere.

By: HT TECH
| Updated on: Sep 21 2022, 14:38 IST
Awesome NASA photo of Mars- Just check it out
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1/5 This amazing image of Mars with blue ripples reveals the secret of the red planet’s winds, says NASA. (NASA)
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2/5 NASA wrote in the image’s post ““There are tiny ripples on the tops of the dunes, only several feet from crest-to-crest. These merge into larger mega-ripples about 30 feet apart that radiate outward from the dunes. The larger, brighter formations that are roughly parallel are called "Transverse Aeolian Ridges" (TAR). These TAR are covered with very coarse sand”. (NASA)
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3/5 “All of these different features can indicate which way the wind was blowing when they formed. Being able to study such a variety so close together allows us to see their relationships and compare and contrast features to examine what they are made of and how they formed,” NASA further added. (NASA)
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4/5 According to NASA, the blue colour was not added for effect but had an important reason behind it. On the right side the ripples appear in blue-green color while on the left side, it appears in bright blue because the wind is blowing faster on the left side of the image and the TAR appears in bright color. On the right side, the slower moving wind gives it an ocean green color. (NASA)
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5/5 Just a month ago, NASA’s Mars Rover reported dust whirlwinds on Mars, known as Dust Devils. These whirlwinds got as big as 4 square kilometers and occurred multiple times a day. Therefore, to study the wind patterns, NASA added the blue colour to study the changing wind patterns on the red planet. (NASA)
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After capturing the first ever images of Mars, the NASA James Webb Space Telescope is revealing important information about the red planet’s atmosphere. (NASA)

The NASA James Webb Space Telescope is in no mood to stop awing and shocking us. It has been making revelation after revelation ever since it became operational. In fact, the images and data are so good that many are questioning whether it is actually true! Just a few days ago it captured stunning images of Jupiter and revealed rings, tiny satellites and even galaxy-like structure within it. And now, this telescope, one of the most prized tech possessions, has taken images of Mars for the first time ever. The images are important because the Webb telescope used its Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) to capture the infrared light coming from the red planet. These rays are very sensitive and as a result, we have been able to see a new side of the planet. But that's not all. The images have also uncovered secrets of the Martian atmosphere.

NASA James Webb Space Telescope captures first images of Mars

The images were shared by NASA on Monday, September 19, at the Europlanet Science Congress 2022. It was also revealed that the James Webb Space Telescope captured images at a distance of 1.6 million kilometers from the red planet. Further, the images are of the observable disk of Mars. The observable disk is the side of a planet lit by the Sun. The reflected infrared light was captured by the NIRCam instrument fitted on the telescope.

But capturing these images was easier said than done. The JWST is made to take images of distant galaxies and stars and as such is equipped with highly sensitive instruments. There was a risk that the nearby Mars with its brightly lit demeanor could blind the instrument. As a solution, scientists used very short exposures to observe Mars.

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“Mars is so bright that the challenge is how to see it. We can see this incredible resolution, we have the diffraction limit of a space telescope in the infrared, which is fantastic. We can see the whole planet," Giuliano Liuzzi, NASA Planetary Systems Laboratory at Goddard Space Flight Center scientist and lead investigator said in a press conference, told Space.com.

Interestingly, the images have revealed information about the red planet's atmosphere as well. Scientists found out that Hellas Basin, a 1,930 kilometers wide basin looks darker than its surrounding, even during the time of the day. This is highly unusual as the Martian atmosphere does not support any structure to allow such darkness. It turns out that the darkening was a result of carbon dioxide absorbing the light passing through the region.

“The Hellas Basin is at a lower altitude, and thus experiences higher air pressure. 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 tease apart these competing effects in these data,” said Liuzzi.

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First Published Date: 21 Sep, 14:38 IST
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