Jason DavisJan 31, 2023

Best space pictures of the month: January 2023

A sample depot on Mars and a stunning green comet top our collection of space pictures from January 2023.

Perseverance's Three Forks Sample Depot Selfie
Perseverance's Three Forks Sample Depot Selfie NASA's Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with one of 10 tubes the rover deposited at the sample depot it created in an area within Jezero Crater nicknamed Three Forks. The images used to create this mosaic were captured using the rover's robotic arm on Jan. 20, 2023.Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover is collecting samples that will be brought back to Earth and studied for signs of past life. The current plan is for Perseverance to deliver samples directly to a future lander and ascent vehicle. But in case that can’t happen, the rover dropped 10 backup samples in a location within Jezero Crater known as Three Forks. Small helicopters similar to Ingenuity, which completed its 40th flight this month, could carry the samples back to the lander.

Closer to home, a comet has graced Earth’s skies. Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF) will make its closest approach to Earth on February 1, and is currently visible through binoculars or a telescope. Astrophotographers around the world have captured images of the comet’s stunning green coma.

Stunning Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)
Stunning Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) Astrophotographer Dan Bartlett captured this image of comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) from June Lake, California on Jan. 18th, 2023.Image: Dan Bartlett

Here are some other images that grabbed our attention this month:

Ingenuity's 40th flight
Ingenuity's 40th flight NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter captured this image of the Perseverance rover's tracks during its 40th flight on Jan. 19, 2023. The image has been edited to bring out surface details.Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Edited by Jason Davis
A Dragon in the dark
A Dragon in the dark A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft is pictured moments after undocking from the International Space Station on Jan. 9, 2023. Dragon would splash down in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Tampa, Florida, two days later returning about 2 metric tons (4,400 pounds) of station hardware and scientific cargo for retrieval and analysis on Earth.Image: NASA
JWST spots a planetary debris disk
JWST spots a planetary debris disk These two images, captured in different wavelengths of light, show the debris disk around AU Mic, a red dwarf star located 32 light-years away. JWST used its coronagraph to block the intense light of the central star. The star is marked by a white, graphical representation at the center of each image. The region blocked by the coronagraph is shown by a dashed circle. The star has two known planets; the debris disk is the result of collisions between leftover planet-forming materials.Image: Science: NASA, ESA, CSA, Kellen Lawson (NASA-GSFC), Joshua E. Schlieder (NASA-GSFC). Image processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)
Juno's views of Io, PJ47
Juno's views of Io, PJ47 NASA's Juno spacecraft captured these images of Io during the spacecraft's 47th Jupiter flyby on Dec. 15, 2022. The images were processed by Andrea Luck and posted to the Juno mission webpage on Jan. 7, 2023.Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Andrea Luck
Chamaeleon I molecular cloud
Chamaeleon I molecular cloud NASA's James Webb Space Telescope's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) captured an image of the heart of the Chamaeleon I dark molecular cloud, located 630 light years away. The blue center cloud material appears to be illuminated by the orange protostar Ced 110 IRS 4, over on the left. The orange dots behind the cloud are numerous background stars; the light can be used to detect ice within the cloud through the absorption of passing starlight.Image: NASA / ESA / CSA

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