The Downlink • Nov 27, 2020
A moon mountain and a radio retrospective
A new lunar mission is heading to Oceanus Procellarum—the Ocean of Storms—a dark-grey region in the Moon’s northwest corner visible with the unaided eye from Earth. China’s Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission launched on 23 November and will land near a 70-kilometer-wide mound named Mons Rümker (pictured, just above the large crater). Chang'e-5 will return the youngest ever Moon samples to Earth, helping scientists understand what was happening late in the Moon’s history and how Earth and the solar system evolved.
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Arecibo Observatory is being decommissioned. Engineers declared the iconic telescope (pictured) unsafe for repairs after a second support cable snapped in early November. During 57 years of operation, Arecibo made numerous contributions to planetary exploration, the search for life, and planetary defense. You can read our reaction to the news here. Image credit: University of Central Florida
Hear the soothing sounds of interplanetary space. A microphone aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover recorded the audio during a checkout last month. In February, the mic will listen as the rover plummets through the Martian atmosphere and lands. Perseverance carries two microphones to capture sounds from Mars, fulfilling a long Planetary Society campaign to capture sounds from the Red Planet.
Two Russian astronauts went on a 7-hour spacewalk. The duo were preparing the International Space Station for next year’s arrival of a new module named Nauka. “Nauka” means “science” in Russian.
From The Planetary Society
With 30 November’s full Moon approaching, this is a great time to go outside and look up at our beautiful cosmic companion. You can use our handy new guide to the visible lunar features (pictured) to figure out what exactly you’re seeing, perhaps aided by a telescope or binoculars. If you’re curious to know more about this little world, we have a new article that explores what we know about water on the Moon. And if that only leaves you wanting more, explore our comprehensive guide to the Moon.
This week’s Planetary Radio is joining the lunacy! This week’s episode features an interview with Casey Honniball, lead author of the Nature Astronomy paper that announced the confirmed presence of water in sunlit areas of the Moon. Host Mat Kaplan will also explore the latest developments on the potential presence of phosphine in Venus’ atmosphere with Cardiff University astronomer Jane Greaves. It’s also Planetary Radio’s 18th anniversary this week, and to mark this special occasion we’ve updated our list of the top 10 must-listen episodes throughout the podcast’s history.
Registration is open for our 2021 Virtual Day of Action! The Day of Action is an annual event that brings together Planetary Society members to meet with their representatives in Congress and advocate in support of space science and exploration. Due to the coronavirus pandemic this will be a virtual event, taking place on 31 March 2021. Learn more about this unique and impactful event, and register here to participate.
What’s the latest in U.S. space policy and politics? Last week we held a special members-only telecon to answer this question. A video recording of the discussion between host Mat Kaplan, CEO Bill Nye, chief advocate and senior space policy adviser Casey Dreier, and chief of Washington operations Brendan Curry is now available for anyone to watch.
A full Moon shines bright on 30 November. Jupiter and Saturn continue to greet stargazers in the western evening sky, with Mars shining further to the east. In the predawn, look for Venus bright and low to the horizon. Learn more at planetary.org/night-sky.
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Wow of the Week
Italian astrophotographer and Planetary Society supporter Simone Capace created this digital model of the Moon. By combining photos taken through a telescope into modeling software, she adds an artistic touch to a familiar sight.
Do you have a suggestion for the Wow of the Week? We’re looking for space-related art, music, gadgets, quotes, fashion, burning questions, brief sci-fi passages, or anything else that will make our readers go “Wow!” Send us your idea by replying to any Downlink email or writing to [email protected], and please let us know if you’re a Planetary Society member.