Engineering 101

Webb Space Telescope Images Mars for the First Time

The Webb Space Telescope returned its first images of Mars. The data comes from the telescope’s infrared instruments and provides scientists with information about Mars’ surface and atmospheric composition.

Mars in two different wavelengths using the Near-Infrared Camera.Graphic: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Mars JWST/GTO team

Using the Near-Infrared Camera and Near-Infrared Spectrograph, the first view of Mars is actually two images taken at two infrared wavelengths. It shows the Eastern Hemisphere of the planet, which Webb observed from its vantage point nearly 932,000 miles (1.5 kilometers) away at Sun-Earth Lagrange Point 2.

Webb also collected some spectroscopic data using the Near-Infrared Spectrograph, revealing some of the molecules that make up Mars’ thin atmosphere, including carbon dioxide, water, and carbon monoxide.

By viewing Mars, scientists can establish how reliable the high-tech telescope is at studying very distant celestial bodies.

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