Mars atmosphere, Jupiter weather and asteroid composition: how Webb studies the solar system

Mars atmosphere, Jupiter weather and asteroid composition: how Webb studies the solar system

The James Webb Space Telescope has taken the world over with a picture of the deepest space that NASA has presented as the first results of its operation. Infrared observatory sensors can look back billions of years and learn what happened just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang and how the first galaxies were formed.

However, Webb's research is not limited to distant objects: in the months since the telescope began its operation, images of star formations, an exoplanet, and even a few near-space objects — our solar system — have appeared.

The space observatory's working hours are scheduled for minutes, so why is it being spent on what you can see in a normal home telescope?

Sees what others miss

The key advantage of the James Webb Space Telescope is that it works with light in the near and medium infrared range, primarily to study the early universe: because of the red shift, visible light from distant galaxies moves towards the infrared range.

Although this feature is not specifically designed to study the solar system, it is also useful here, and the space telescope captures light with a wave length of 0.6 to 28.5 μm, and the images are produced with a large spectral resolution.

Here are a few possible targets that could be studied by the telescope.

  • Planets and satellites. Many important molecules, including those that provide an important signal of life existence. They leave traces in the spectrum that James Webb is studying. For example, it can determine with great precision the atmospheric content or on the surface of the water, the heavy water for any known Koiper Belt asteroids, and these data, together with other observations, help to determine their composition and answer the question of how the solar system is formed. Atmosphere. Telescope characteristics allow monitoring of the weather on all planets beyond the Sun. Throughout the mission, the telescope will collect information twice a year about what happens in planets and satellites.

Mars Research

The availability of water and life on the Red Planet is now and in the past one of the driving forces of all Martian research. Webb will help to complement and refine the research that is being carried out by Mars ships, landing modules and orbital stations.

By studying the spectrum of light passing through the planet's atmosphere and reflected by the surface, researchers plan to find signs of the burgeoning water past of the Red Planet and of what has changed the stability of its atmosphere, and geologists can also use telescopes to study the formation and evolution of global dust storms and cloud systems over sleeping volcanoes.

What happened to the Red Planet and whether the Earth could repeat its history might be answered with a telescope, at least the first image confirms Webb's ability to study Mars.

Outer Planets

James Webb can look at anything at an angle of more than 85 degrees from the Sun from Lagrang Point 2. This means that it has access to all planets, starting with Mars, an asteroid belt, gas giants, and Koiper belt objects.

The limitations of the field of vision are a fundamental consequence of the thermal design of the observatory and the sun visor, which preserves the telescope and tools cold, meaning that it is impossible to observe the sun, the Earth, the moon, Mercury and Venus, and comets that move against the background of the sun.

However, there is enough space left to observe outer planets outside the asteroid belt. By studying them, a space telescope can show how seasonal weather changes on Jupiter or Saturn satellites.

Webba's infrared spectrometry can study the atmosphere of gas giants at different depths, map cyclones and clouds, and, with record detail, the telescope can show how storms are formed and developed.

Of particular interest is Titan, the only world in the solar system that has liquid seas and lakes on its surface, filled with methane rather than water, the more interesting it is to understand the different seasons and rain cycles on Titan.

In the test mode, researchers studied the atmosphere of gas giants using the example of Jupiter. The first images showed many vortex systems that exist on the planet in addition to a huge storm called the Great Red Spot.

The telescope will also map organic molecules on the discs of ice giants of the solar system, Uranus and Neptune. They are the least studied planets. Webb can map their atmospheric temperature and chemical structure, as well as determine their fundamental differences from the gas giants of Jupiter and Saturn.

As people's perceptions of space and its vastness grew, the solar system began to be perceived as close and well-explored, but it is not really true. Even in our planetary system, there are many riddles that have yet to be answered.

The study of planetary systems and the origin of life is one of the main objectives of the James Webb Space Telescope, and the focus of Webb on infrared light gives astronomers the opportunity to study surface features and planetal atmospheres that they could not see in visible light, and the solar system is no exception.

In addition, the telescope has a unique ability to turn 90° in less than an hour, which means that if a new target suddenly appears, such as a comet facing Jupiter, the telescope will be prepared to look at all the details.