The DownlinkNov 24, 2023

Gifts from above

Space Snapshot

Jupiter circumpolar cyclone in false color

NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which finished its primary mission at Jupiter in 2021, is the gift that keeps on giving. Now in extended mission operations, Juno continues to send back data and images of Jupiter and its moons, including this beautiful view of the gas giant’s swirling, coffee-colored clouds. It’s one of the contenders for the best Solar System images of the year in The Planetary Society’s Best of 2023 awards. Make sure you vote before the polls close on Nov. 30! We’ll reveal the results in early December.

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Fact Worth Sharing

Mars illustration

Many planetary missions have given humanity much more than we asked for. NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover, for example, was designed for a 90-day mission but operated for over 14 years before communication was lost in 2018.

Mission Briefings

Ispace rover

Japan's ispace has unveiled its newest micro lunar rover. The private spaceflight company’s mini rover will fly on a Moon landing mission in the winter of 2024. The rover is designed to use a shovel to scoop lunar regolith and a camera to image those samples. Image credit: ispace.


Rovery McRoverface? Australians are too creative for that. The Australian Space Agency is inviting Australians to help choose a name for the country's first home-made moon rover, which will fly to the Moon through a partnership with NASA as soon as 2026. The agency asked thousands of people and schools to take part in a contest to come up with the best name for the future moon vehicle, whittling them down to a shortlist of four names: "Mateship", "Roo-ver", and the Indigenous words "Kakirra" and "Coolamon." Aussies can now vote for their favorite.


A year after its test mission, there’s still a lot to learn from Artemis I. NASA is currently studying the performance of the heat shield on the Orion spacecraft, which reentered Earth’s atmosphere after orbiting the Moon in late 2023. Artemis II will carry astronauts to lunar orbit, potentially before the end of 2024.

From The Planetary Society

Gift guide 2023 social
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Our annual gift guide is here! To find the year’s best cosmic gifts, we asked the biggest space enthusiasts we know: Planetary Society members. Check out our crowd-sourced guide of the best gifts to buy for the space lover in your life — or to add to your own wish list. Pictured: An assortment of items from our gift guide. Image credit: Merc Boyan/The Planetary Society.

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This week’s roundup of space videos is not to be missed. First, check out the best images of Mars taken from space. Then watch the highlights of the recent Starship launch from Planetary Society partner Everyday Astronaut. And watch our guide to December’s Geminid meteor shower.

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The International Space Station won’t last forever. So what will happen to it? Find out how NASA and its partners plan to retire and deorbit one of the world’s most ambitious engineering projects, and what will come next — all this and more in our guide to the eventual demise of the ISS.

New in the member community

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Aliens, UFOs, UAPs… the possibility of intelligent life beyond Earth fascinates everyone, from the scientifically inclined to the conspiratorial. Author Marc Hartzman wrote his book “We Are Not Alone” to separate alien fact from fiction. At our Nov. 30 virtual book club meeting, Planetary Society members can join him in a live discussion of the book and the big questions it seeks to answer.

Next month’s book will be "A City on Mars: Can We Settle Space, Should We Settle Space, and Have We Really Thought This Through?" with a live discussion with authors Kelly and Zach Weinersmith. All this and more takes place in our online member community.

What's Up

Jupiter illustration

On Nov. 24, look for bright Jupiter near the Moon in the eastern evening sky. Yellowish Saturn is also high up in the evening sky, looking yellowish. In the pre-dawn, look for super bright Venus in the east. Learn more about what to find in November’s night skies.

Wow of the Week

Sagittarius c jwst nircam

If the Universe is a gift, JWST is unwrapping it for us. This dazzling image from the space telescope shows the star-forming region Sagittarius C, a 50 light-years-wide section of a densely populated center of the Milky Way galaxy. The image (worth full-screening) shows an estimated 500,000 stars captured in near-infrared wavelengths.

JWST is already world-famous for stunning images like this, and is now the subject of an IMAX documentary, Deep Sky. Nathaniel Kahn, an Oscar-nominated filmmaker and the director of Deep Sky, joins this week’s Planetary Radio to discuss the film's decade-long creation process to bring the magic of JWST images to the big screen. Image credit: NASA et al.

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!