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James Webb Space Telescope
Solar System

45th Annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference
Observations in the Solar System with HST and JWST

JWST and HST hosted a joint Town Hall at the 45th LPSC Meeting held at the Woodlands Waterway Marriott in Woodlands, TX, March 17-21, 2014

Town Hall Details:
  • Location: Waterway 1-3 Room
  • Date/Time: Thursday March 20, 2014, Noon - 1:15 pm (CDT) or 1-2:15 pm (EDT)


You can watch the webcast of the meeting by clicking on the link below:-
JWST and HST Townhall webcast

45th Annual Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting in Denver, CO
JWST Town Hall: Observations in the Solar System

Last year we held a workshop to provide the community details about the current instrument specifications and observing modes for solar system targets, as well as the observatory constraints such as brightness limits on planets, moving targets, tracking, and others.

The purpose of this Town Hall meeting held at Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, on Octobert 10, 2013 was to bring the community up to speed on the accomplishments and status of the recommendations provided to the JWST team last year regarding solar system observations and to solicit the community for further input. The presentations and the e-mail followup from the meeting area available below.

You can also watch the webcast of the meeting by clicking on the link below:-
JWST Townhall webcast

Planning your Solar System Observations with JWST


The JWST team participated in the 44th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, which was held at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center, The Woodlands, Texas, March 17–22, 2013. In addition to our booth presence, we organized a special workshop titled "Planning your Solar System Observations with JWST". This workshop took place Sunday, March 17, 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. All participants were experts in space-based observations and contributed significant input for the JWST team regarding new science cases, community concerns, and other potential observational modes to be considered. The presentations and the e-mail followup from the meeting are available below.


  1. Brightness Limits-Stefani Milam
  2. JWST Overview-Dean Hines
  3. JWST SODRM 2012-Dean Hines
  4. Operations Concept for Moving Target Observations with JWSTGeorge Sonneborn
  5. DPS e-mail followup

The three JWST Solar System flyers that were presented at the meeting are also available here, as well as the FAQ sheet.

  1. JWST Observations in the Solar System
  2. JWST Observations of Dwarf Planets
  3. NIRSpec and MIRI Observations of Asteroids

44th Annual Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting in Reno, NV

Division for Planetary Sciences

The JWST team participated in the Division for Planetary Sciences Annual Meeting in Reno on October 14-19th, 2012. In addition to our booth presence, we organized a special workshop titled "Planning your Solar System Observations with JWST". This workshop took place from 9 am to noon on Sunday October 14th, and was attended by 50 DPS members. We discussed topics such as moving target capabilities, bright observing modes, imaging and spectroscopic sensitivities for Solar System objects, and much more. Lots of new ideas emerged at the workshop and we have noted these in a Summary of Action Items and Status. The seven presentations that were given at the meeting are all linked below.

  1. Opening Remarks and Schedule
  2. Proposing for HST time
  3. JWST Observatory, Instrument Modes, and Specs
  4. JWST Brightness Limits
  5. Operations Concepts for Moving Target Observations with JWST
  6. Solar System Science in the JWST Science Operations Design Reference Mission
  7. Summary, Closing Thoughts, and Next Steps

White paper on Solar System Observations with JWST by Norwood et al. 2014

More information about the AAS Division for Planetary Sciences Annual Meeting

History of Planetary Science With Observatories Like Hubble And Spitzer

NASA's flagship observatories have provided many successes in Solar System exploration. These missions, like Hubble and Spitzer, have directly led to new discoveries and also enhanced the productivity of planetary missions. For example, monitoring of Mars has led to insights on ideal landing sites for Martian missions, and discoveries near Pluto have provided course corrections and science targets for New Horizons. Among the many discoveries are:

  • Discovery of new moons around Pluto
  • Discovery of the largest ring around Saturn
  • Characterization of Ceres, Vesta, and other dwarf planets and asteroids
  • Discovery of new Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs)
  • Detailed studies of cloud structure in outer gas giants
  • Long-term monitoring of the Martian atmosphere
  • Characterizing new classes of objects: Main Belt Comets or "active asteroids"

The New Capabilities Provided by JWST

JWST is ~100 times more powerful than the Hubble and Spitzer observatories. It has greater sensitivity, higher spatial resolution in the infrared, and significantly higher spectral resolution in the mid infrared.

Moons of the Solar System
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JWST observations of solar system objects, including targets of opportunity (ToO), are expected to constitute a significant fraction of the total observing time.

JWST Quick Facts

Example Solar System Science with JWST

Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs)

Kuiper Belt Objects
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Imaging and spectroscopy observations can be used to:

  • determine diameters and albedos for a large sample of KBOs;
  • search for evidence of collisionally–induced changes in albedo;
  • make near–simultaneous measurements to mitigate rotational.

Spectroscopy will directly constrain surface composition (H2O, CH4, CH3OH) and volatile inventories of known KBOs, and provide the first spectra of many of these objects at 2.5–5 microns. The ice/water hydration band at 3.1 microns is easily within the reach of JWST's NIRSpec instrument in the vast majority of KBOs. Such results will directly address the dynamical (and chemical) history of the solar system and test formation theories. The observations will also elucidate the role that giant planet migration has played in the evolution of the solar system. Radiometry of KBOs will enable better characterization of their albedos and hence the size distribution within the Kuiper Belt.

Dwarf Planets

Dwarf Planets
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Imaging and spectroscopy observations can be used to:

  • determine the physical state of the ices and the composition of the organics;
  • make detailed studies of the composition to determine what molecules are present on their surfaces (and in their atmospheres), and map the distribution of the constituents vs. longitude.
  • provide the first detection of the low-temperature phase of solid N2, and determine whether N2 is present at all on Eris (where there is only indirect evidence for it).
  • determine the thermal state of the surface using thermal light-curves for the brighter objects, and to measure the mid-IR thermal emission for the first time for the fainter objects with the JWST MIRI instrument.


Click for larger image

JWST observations can provide:

  • near-infrared spectroscopy with R = 1000 of cometary comae;
  • mid infrared spectroscopy of cometary dust grains;
  • the first spectroscopic studies of the new class of icy comets in the main asteroid belt.

JWST will enable studies of the chemical composition of cometary ice and dust with unprecedented sensitivity. Spectroscopy will measure abundances of H2O, CO2, CO, and CH3OH in the comae of faint comets and also constrain the ratio of ortho and para H2O to reveal formation temperatures. This set of observations is a critical ingredient in understanding planetary system formation and evolution, when combined with synergistic JWST observations of circumstellar disks. Additionally, the study of icy comets in the asteroid belt may reveal the source objects that were responsible for the delivery of water to the Earth.

Planets and Moons

Io and Jupiter
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JWST observations can:

  • provide time-resolved near-infrared spectroscopy to study the variability of atmospheric species including CO2, CO, and H2O and constrain radiative and absorptive properties of airborn dust, enabling photochemical and dynamical modeling of the Martian climate;
  • provide direct near-infrared detection to assess magnitude and scale of diurnal, seasonal, and interannual volatile transport, and discriminate surface and atmospheric ices and clouds;
  • enable constraints to be placed on potential methane outbursts.
Jupiter and Saturn

JWST observations can:

  • provide mid infrared medium resolution spectroscopy and IFU data to study the rich atmosphere compositions;
  • fully explore infrared diagnostics such as phosphine and methane flourescence, which link to vertical dynamics and thermal structure of the upper atmosphere;
  • provide a global context on large-scale weather patterns for high-resolution studies from complementary planetary missions (e.g., Juno and Cassini).
Uranus and Neptune

JWST observations can:

  • image clouds structures;
  • provide high sensitivity maps of chemical species at high latitudes;
  • perform spectral characterization of H3+, CO in flourescence, detailed mapping within the 5 micron window, search for minor species, and measure isotopic ratios of major elements;
  • provide mid infrared observations to measure temporal variations in temperature, resolve sources of underlying driving dynamics, and disentangle causes of rotation modulation.
Icy Moons

JWST observations can:

  • complement and extend planetary missions such as Cassini.
  • perform long-time baseline observations of both atmospheric and surface changes.
  • provide near-IR spectrometry for Titan with a six-times greater spectral resolution than Cassini to determine types of organic species present on the surface — the higher spectral resolution over mid-latitude regions will reveal whether surface changes or secular atmospheric changes are in evidence over a decade timescale.