New space tele­scope to study Mars

The James Webb Space Tele­scope is set to tar­get the Red Planet to re­veal fresh se­crets and po­ten­tial signs of life

All About Space - - Launch Pad -

NASA’s James Webb Tele­scope will be used to study how Mars turned from a wet to a dry planet in a bid to dis­cover fresh clues about its past and present hab­it­abil­ity. The space agency says the tele­scope will be able to take a snapshot of the en­tire disk of Mars at once, al­low­ing as­tronomers to see how much wa­ter es­capes into space.

Webb, which is seen as the suc­ces­sor to Hub­ble, will watch the nor­mal-wa­ter-to-heavy-wa­ter ra­tio (H20 to D2O) dur­ing the dif­fer­ent sea­sons and gather data at dif­fer­ent times and lo­ca­tions. It will test the the­ory that D2O – which in­cludes a heavy hy­dro­gen called deu­terium – re­mains on Mars, while the lighter mol­e­cules are lost to space. As NASA ex­plains, a skewed ra­tio of H2O to D2O on Mars would be in­dica­tive of how much wa­ter has es­caped.

“We can also de­ter­mine how wa­ter is ex­changed be­tween po­lar ice, the at­mos­phere and the soil,” says Geron­imo Vil­lanueva of NASA's God­dard Space Flight Center. When Webb tar­gets Mars in 2020 as part of a Guar­an­teed Time Ob­ser­va­tion project, it will of­fer un­prece­dented res­o­lu­tion and sen­si­tiv­ity. “Ob­ser­va­tions of Mars will test Webb's ca­pa­bil­i­ties in track­ing mov­ing ob­jects across the sky,” says Ste­fanie Milam, also of God­dard.

Webb is set to be launched in

2019. Care will have to be taken not to swamp the tele­scope's del­i­cate in­stru­ments with light, but its work in de­tect­ing small dif­fer­ences in light wave­lengths will fol­low years of stud­ies into the loss of Mar­tian wa­ter and the planet's chang­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

The JWST will help with dis­cov­er­ies on the Red Planet

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.