The Planetary Report

December Solstice 2022

From Our Member Magazine

The year in pictures: 2022

Spacecraft, telescopes, and rovers are our eyes throughout the Solar System. Thanks to them, the Cosmos has never felt closer.

In 2022, we revisited familiar vistas with a new lens and spotted phenomena previously considered science fiction. This year, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) began to “unfold the Universe” as promised, peering billions of years back into the heart of distant galaxies. Juno, Perseverance, BepiColombo, and other missions continued to beam back images of the worlds within our cosmic neighborhood, sparking new ideas and questions about them.

NASA’s DART mission was a first-of-its-kind planetary defense effort that ground- and space-based telescopes — as well as a lone CubeSat — were able to capture in stunning detail. These pictures allow us to preserve that historic moment in which a spacecraft intentionally collided with an asteroid’s moon.

Though there are so many remarkable space images from which to choose this year, we’ve selected a few of our very favorites. They are so much more than pretty pictures; they are a testament to what is possible when people work to realize a dream together — a steadfast reminder of what Carl Sagan called the “star stuff” that binds us to one another.

Jupiter's auroras from JWST
Jupiter's auroras from JWST JWST’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) captured this image of Jupiter. Since infrared light is invisible to the human eye, the light has been mapped onto the visible spectrum. Scientists collaborated with citizen scientist Judy Schmidt to translate the telescope’s data into images like this one.Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, Jupiter ERS Team; image processing by Judy Schmidt
JWST Southern Ring Nebula
JWST Southern Ring Nebula The Southern Ring, or “Eight-Burst,” nebula is a planetary nebula located about 2,000 light-years from Earth. These side-by-side images show a star’s death — gas emanating from a dying star. Both images were taken by JWST in near-infrared light (left) and mid-infrared light (right).Image: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI
JWST Carina Nebula
JWST Carina Nebula JWST’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) captured this stunning view of the Carina nebula, located about 7,500 light-years from Earth. Nicknamed the “cosmic cliffs,” it is essentially a nursery for young stars, some of them several times larger than our own Sun.Image: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI
Tarantula Nebula as seen by JWST
Tarantula Nebula as seen by JWST No need to be afraid of this spider! This star-forming region called the Tarantula nebula is located about 161,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud Galaxy. JWST created this mosaic, which extends about 340 light-years across, using its high-resolution infrared images.Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team
JWST sees spiral galaxy IC 5332
JWST sees spiral galaxy IC 5332 This image of galaxy IC 5332 as taken by the Webb telescope’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) resembles gray cobwebs in the shape of a spiral. These “cobwebs” are actually patterns of gas spread throughout the galaxy.Image: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST and PHANGS-HST Teams
Phantom Galaxy
Phantom Galaxy This image from the James Webb Space Telescope shows the heart of M74, otherwise known as the Phantom Galaxy. JWST’s sharp vision has revealed delicate filaments of gas and dust in the grandiose spiral arms that wind outward from the center of this image. A lack of gas in the nuclear region also provides an unobscured view of the nuclear star cluster at the galaxy’s center.Image: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST Team
Cartwheel Galaxy
Cartwheel Galaxy This image of the Cartwheel Galaxy and its companion galaxies is a composite from JWST’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). NASA released the image on Aug. 2, 2022. The Cartwheel Galaxy formed after a high-speed collision between a large spiral galaxy and a smaller galaxy not visible in this image.Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team
JWST Stephan’s Quintet
JWST Stephan’s Quintet Stephan’s Quintet is the name given to a visual grouping of five galaxies located about 290 million light-years away in the constellation Pegasus. JWST was able to show shock waves, tidal tails, and more astonishing details about these distant galaxies.Image: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI
BepiColombo's 2nd Mercury flyby
BepiColombo's 2nd Mercury flyby The ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission captured this image of Mercury during its second flyby of the planet on June 23, 2022. The spacecraft was 920 kilometers (570 miles) from the surface of Mercury when the picture was taken. Parts of the spacecraft are visible in the foreground, including the mission’s magnetometer boom on the left.Image: ESA/BepiColombo/MTM
Stereoscopic Ryugu
Stereoscopic Ryugu Astrophysicist and rock ‘n’ roll legend Brian May used two slightly different images from JAXA’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft to create this 3D stereoscopic image of asteroid Ryugu. This image is correctly viewed when cross-eyed.Image: Original image credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST. / Stereoscopic credit: Claudia Manzoni, Brian May.
LightSail 2 image of Florida and the Bahamas
LightSail 2 image of Florida and the Bahamas This image taken by The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 spacecraft on Dec. 24, 2021 shows Florida and the beautiful waters of the Bahamas. North is approximately at top left. The image has been color-adjusted, and some distortion from the camera’s 180-degree fisheye lens has been removed. Though technically not an image from 2022, we couldn’t help but to include it.Image: The Planetary Society
Perseverance spots its thermal blanket
Perseverance spots its thermal blanket NASA’s Perseverance rover captured this image of a shiny object that appears alien to Mars. The mission team thinks it’s a piece of thermal shielding that separated from the spacecraft’s rocket-powered, jet-pack-style descent stage, landing about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away.Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Perseverance's backshell and parachute from the air
Perseverance's backshell and parachute from the air During its 26th flight, the Ingenuity Mars helicopter captured this aerial view of the landing gear that safely delivered NASA’s Perseverance rover to the surface of Mars. Mission engineers requested this and other images of the smashed backshell and parachute to learn more about the landing system’s performance to help improve the design for future missions.Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
DART's last complete look at Dimorphos
DART's last complete look at Dimorphos In a thrilling moment, DART captured this view of Dimorphos just as it was about to crash into the asteroid moonlet. The transmission ended shortly thereafter.Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL
Vortices near Jupiter's North Pole
Vortices near Jupiter's North Pole NASA’s Juno spacecraft took this image on July 5, 2022 during its 43rd flyby of Jupiter. Its JunoCam instrument saw these vortices near the gas giant’s north pole. These vortices appear to be spiraling wind storms.Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS; image processing by Brian Swift
Juno's first image from its Europa flyby
Juno's first image from its Europa flyby NASA’s Juno spacecraft took this image of Europa’s icy surface on Sept. 29, 2022 during its flyby of the Jovian moon. This marked the third-ever close pass of Europa and the closest approach since NASA’s Galileo in 2000. According to NASA, Juno was about 352 kilometers (219 miles) from Europa at its closest.Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SWRI/MSSS

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The Planetary Report • December Solstice

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