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Emily LakdawallaDecember 18, 2018

The December Solstice 2018 Issue of The Planetary Report Is Out!

Where Life Began

I’m very proud to announce the publication of the December Solstice 2018 issue of The Planetary Report, “Where Life Began.” Members who subscribe to the print version should receive it in the coming days to weeks.

Where Life Began

The cover photo is 50 years old this month: the famous Apollo 8 “Earthrise.” For the magazine, image processing artist Seán Doran began with archival data and processed this new version. Casey Dreier wrote an editorial about the enduring significance of the Earthrise photo.


NASA / Seán Doran

When Apollo 8 astronauts Bill Anders, Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell rounded the farside of the Moon, they became the first humans to witness an Earthrise above an alien surface. The iconic image was first published on 30 December 1968.

I knew when I realized the coincidence of the 50th anniversary of the Earthrise photo and the publication date of my second issue of The Planetary Report that I would have to put that photo on the cover. Its placement suggested this issue’s theme: “Where Life Began.” Earth is currently the only place in the universe that we know to have hosted life, past or present. The idea that life is common in the universe arises in part from the observation that life seems to have existed on Earth as far back as we can read its history. If life started so (apparently) easily here, shouldn’t it have started wherever conditions permitted? In this issue, Caltech’s Michael Wong summarizes the current state of science about how we think life started here, and what that means for our search for it elsewhere.

The other features also look at Earth and the Moon as worlds floating in space. An article by SwRI’s Vicky Hamilton describes how a deep-space mission, OSIRIS-REx, takes advantage of an Earth gravity-assist flyby to test out its instruments. Many other missions, like Galileo and Hayabusa2, have done the same, and I show some of my favorite examples of Earth-Moon photos from planetary spacecraft in my own article, “Spacecraft Earth.”

You can read The Planetary Report for free, but I hope you’ll consider supporting our efforts to educate about solar system exploration, planetary defense, and the search for life by joining or donating to The Planetary Society.

Coming in March: Uranus! Neptune! And more similar worlds among the exoplanets!

Read more: The Planetary Report

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Emily Lakdawalla

Solar System Specialist for The Planetary Society
Read more articles by Emily Lakdawalla

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