The DownlinkNov 25, 2022

Gifts from above

Space Snapshot

Protostar and L1527

JWST really is the gift that keeps on giving. The space telescope recently sent back this astonishing image of a cloud of material feeding a protostar. In the background, you can see a multitude of distant galaxies. We’ve already enjoyed so many jaw-dropping images like this since JWST began operations in July, and this is just the beginning of its mission. Image credit: NASA et al.

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Fact Worth Sharing

Moon illustration

Carl Sagan called space exploration “the gift of Apollo.” Although the Apollo program started because of the Cold War, it inspired people around the world and paved the way for the future of peaceful, scientific exploration of the Cosmos.

Mission Briefings

Orion earth moon

NASA’s Orion capsule has reached the Moon. The uncrewed spacecraft, which launched as part of the Artemis I mission, swooped just 130 kilometers (80 miles) above the lunar surface on Nov. 21, adjusting its trajectory to settle into lunar orbit. While there, it took this striking image of the Earth peeking out from behind the Moon. The capsule will remain in a distant retrograde orbit until early December, when it will set off for a return to Earth. Image credit: NASA.


JWST has uncovered more details about exoplanet WASP-39b’s atmosphere. The JWST Transiting Exoplanet team used the space telescope to observe the gas giant exoplanet, which is about 700 light-years from Earth, and identified atoms and molecules in its atmosphere. This included the first unequivocal detection of carbon dioxide in an exoplanet atmosphere.


A new Japanese commercial lunar lander is almost ready for launch. The ispace HAKUTO-R M1 lander is expected to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket no earlier than Nov. 28. The mission will carry several payloads to the far north of the Moon, including scientific payloads for the United Arab Emirates-based Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center and the Japanese space agency JAXA, as well as commercial payloads from companies in Japan and Canada.

From The Planetary Society

2022 gift guide
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Looking for spacey gifts? We’ve got you covered! The Planetary Society has everything you need to share the joy of discovery with your loved ones. We’ve just released our annual gift guide with all kinds of unique presents for the space-loving person (or pet) in your life. We also offer gift memberships if you’d like to give someone a role in the future of space science and exploration. Plus, our online store has tons of great gift ideas that also help advance our mission.

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Follow Mat Kaplan on a special tour that’s been on his wish list for a long time. On this week’s Planetary Radio, host Mat Kaplan takes a tour of the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab at the University of Arizona, where the extraordinary, huge, and perfect mirrors that we use in giant telescopes are built. This visit has been on Mat’s bucket list for much of his career, and — as you’ll discover — for good reason.

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See the impact of your gifts to The Planetary Society. Our year-end impact report is here, showing the achievements our members and donors made possible in 2022. It’s been an outstanding year of advocacy, education, innovation, and collaboration, and we thank all of our supporters for making it happen.

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Don’t forget to vote for the Best of 2022! Choose your favorite images, missions, and exploration moments from the past year. The virtual voting booth is open until the end of November, so make sure you have your say in the outcome. Vote now!

Give the gift of a lifelong passion for space!

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The Planetary Society’s brand new Planetary Academy kids membership program is now up and running, and is the perfect gift to last a lifetime. Aimed at kids ages 5-9, members get fun, educational activities and collectables mailed to them four times a year, helping them learn and get excited about the worlds of our Solar System and beyond! Plus, their membership helps advance space science and exploration. Annual memberships are discounted until Nov. 28. Get a membership for the space-loving kid in your life today!

What's Up

Mars illustration

Jupiter shines bright in the evening southern sky (or in the north if you’re in the southern hemisphere), with yellowish Saturn farther to the west. Mars is reddish and extremely bright, located within the winter hexagon: six bright stars that form a hexagon over a big part of the eastern sky, including Rigel, Aldebaran, Capella, Pollux, Procyon, and Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. You can see a diagram of the winter hexagon in our guide to November’s night skies.

Wow of the Week

Pleiades and surrounding nebula

Space has countless gifts to give us in the form of beautiful sights, if we take the time to look. This image of the Pleiades star cluster (M45) and its surrounding nebula was taken by Planetary Society member Blake Estes and Dr. Christian Sasse. This visible-light image took over 11 hours of exposure time to bring out the faint clouds of gas and dust that birthed the hot, young stars at the cluster's core. Image credit: Christian Sasse/Blake Estes.

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!