The DownlinkJan 13, 2023

Extraterrestrial frosts

Space Snapshot

Mars express south pole

ESA’s Mars Express orbiter captured this view of white frost and reddish regolith around a crater in the Ultimi Scopuli region near the south pole of Mars in May 2022. Image credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin.

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Fact Worth Sharing

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On Earth, frost happens when water molecules in the atmosphere freeze directly into ice on cold surfaces. On other planets, you get different kinds of frost: carbon dioxide frost on Mars, methane frost on Pluto, and even heavy metal frost on Venus.

Mission Briefings

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Representative Frank Lucas has been named chair of the U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. It was widely anticipated that Lucas, a Republican from Oklahoma, would be elected to the position. He has served as Ranking Member of the Science Committee since 2019.


Virgin Orbit’s first launch from the U.K. hit a snag. The company’s LauncherOne rocket suffered an anomaly sometime after it was released from Virgin Orbit’s carrier plane, Cosmic Girl. LauncherOne was supposed to deploy nine satellites but it appears all of them failed to reach orbit. Virgin Orbit has not yet revealed more details on the anomaly.

From The Planetary Society

Comet 2022 e3 ztf dan bartlett
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Earth’s skies are getting a frosty visitor this month. Comets spend most of their time in the frigid outer reaches of the Solar System, but sometimes their orbits bring them close to Earth. One such comet, named 2022 E3 (ZTF), can currently be seen (as pictured) through telescopes in the Northern Hemisphere, but might be visible to the unaided eye in the coming weeks. Learn more about this comet visitor and how to see it. Image credit: Dan Bartlett.

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Celebrate the triumph of NASA’s Artemis I mission on Planetary Radio. This week’s episode features Jeremy Graeber, the assistant launch director at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. He shares his recollections from the night of Artemis I’s historic launch and looks forward as NASA lays its plans for the first crewed missions to the Moon in over five decades.

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NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been facing issues lately. After the delay of the Psyche mission, an independent review board faulted management and workforce problems at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as one of the causes. JPL’s director, Laurie Leshin joins this month’s Planetary Radio: Space Policy Edition to share what the lab is doing in response to these critiques, how NASA can compete with the private sector for top talent, and why industries need to improve the diversity of their workforces to ensure every brain possible can work in space exploration.

What's Up

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Super bright Venus is very low in the West after sunset with yellowish Saturn above it, and very bright Jupiter above Saturn. Bright, reddish Mars is high in the sky in the evening. Learn more at

Wow of the Week

Plutos peaks marilynn flynn

Planetary Society member Marilynn Flynn created this wonderfully realistic painting of an imagined view of methane-frosted peaks on Pluto with Charon in the sky above. The painting was inspired by photos of the icy Elcano Montes taken by the New Horizons spacecraft, which flew by the Pluto system in 2015. Flynn says, “The scenery used as a reference for this painting might look familiar to anyone who has hiked on the Humphreys Trail in the San Francisco Peaks of Flagstaff, Arizona,” near the artist’s home. Image credit: Marilynn Flynn/Tharsis Artworks.

Send us your artwork!

We love to feature space artwork in the Downlink. If you create any kind of space-related art, we invite you to send it to us by replying to any Downlink email or writing to [email protected]. Please let us know in your email if you’re a Planetary Society member!