The Hubble telescope captured this type of Mars at a distance of 50 million miles from Earth in 2016. The picture shows parts with a size of 20-30 miles wide.
The red planet has fascinated scientists for more than 100 years. Now it is a cool desert world with an atmosphere of carbon dioxide, which is 100 times thinner than the earth. However, the data suggests that in the early period of development of the system, the planet had liquid oceans. The future space telescope, James Webb, plans to figure out how Mars went from wet to dry conditions.
Mars was identified as the goal in the Guaranteed Observation Time (GTO) project. James Webb will be able to observe the planet from May to September 2020 during the first year of its operation (cycle 1).
Scientists believe that the telescope will be able to obtain interesting data on the chemistry of the Martian atmosphere. And the importance is that the information will immediately become available to the general public.
Benefits and Challenges
Mars was flown more often than any other planet in the system. Now there are 6 active vehicles in orbit and 2 rovers travel across the surface. In turn, James Webb will be able to fill in some of the gaps.
One of the main features is the ability to instantly take a picture of the entire disk of the planet. Orbiters take time to create a complete map, because of which it is necessary to take into account the variability. Webb also has excellent spectral resolution and the absence of an interfering atmosphere. But watching the Red Planet is not easy. Webb was created to search for extremely weak and distant targets, and Mars - close and bright. Therefore, the planet will allow to check the ability of the telescope to track moving targets.
Water and methane
Most of the Martian water eventually disappeared due to exposure to solar UV light, which destroyed the water molecules. Scientists can estimate the amount of losses by measuring the abundance of two different forms of water in the atmospheric layer of the planet - normal water (H 2 O) and heavy (HDO). Webb will be able to calculate the ratio at different times, season and locations.
Most of the water is covered in ice, but it is likely that there are underground sources. In these potential reservoirs life may be hidden. Telescope James Webb - the world's first cosmic infrared observatory. His goal is to solve the riddles of the solar system, look beyond the faraway worlds and study the history of the origin of the Universe and our place in it.