The DownlinkJan 20, 2023

I spy with my technologically enhanced eye

Space Snapshot

Jwst ngc 346

NASA’s JWST spacecraft has peered deep into yet another nebula to reveal star- and planet-forming processes previously invisible to us. The space telescope’s near-infrared camera captured this beautiful and scientifically intriguing image of star cluster NGC 346, seeing clouds packed with dust and hydrogen — the building blocks of worlds to come. Image credit: NASA et al.

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Fact Worth Sharing

Galaxy illustration

If you love JWST’s near-infrared images and enjoy watching TV, you’ve got Kálmán Tihanyi to thank. The Hungarian physicist was a major figure in the early development of electronic television and is credited with inventing the first infrared camera in 1929.

Mission Briefings

Tycho crater gbo

A new radar system has captured the most detailed images of the Moon ever taken from Earth. The above image, showing Tycho Crater in the lunar southern hemisphere, is one of the high-resolution images taken by a prototype radar system at the National Science Foundation's Green Bank Telescope. This system will also be used to spot far-away asteroids that could pose a threat to Earth. Image credit: NRAO/GBO/Raytheon/NSF/AUI.


The International Space Station is preparing to get a new solar array. The station’s current solar panels were designed for a service life of 15 years, but have been providing electrical power to the station for more than 20 years. Two astronauts will perform a spacewalk on Friday to install mounting platforms to begin the process of replacing the aging solar array.


India’s Venus mission, Shukrayaan, might be delayed. The Indian Space Research Organisation announced this week that their Venus orbiter mission, which was scheduled to launch in 2024, has not yet received official approval from the Indian government, potentially delaying its launch until 2031.


SpaceX says it’s getting closer to its first orbital launch of Starship. The company says it's preparing for a final series of tests of its fully reusable, super heavy-lift launch vehicle before a first orbital launch attempt in the "coming weeks." The company and its leadership, however, have a history of making inaccurate forecasts of Starship’s readiness to launch, and SpaceX still does not have a launch license for the vehicle from the Federal Aviation Administration.

From The Planetary Society

Ls 2 mexico
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LightSail 2 captured amazing images from orbit — these are our favorites. The Planetary Society’s crowd-funded solar sailing spacecraft was equipped with dual fish-eye cameras that took images to help the mission team monitor the condition of the spacecraft's shiny Mylar sails. The images also showcased the beauty of solar sailing for the public, capturing unique vistas from high above our planet. Here are some of our favorite images from the mission. Pictured: The Pacific Ocean and Mexico captured by LightSail 2 on 18 July 2019. Image credit: The Planetary Society.

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Jason Achilles knows that Mars rocks. The musician partnered with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to help put one of the first microphones on Mars, aboard the Perseverance rover. Achilles shares his journey and the joy of listening to the sounds of Mars on this week’s Planetary Radio.

What's Up

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Venus and Saturn are coming closer together low in the western horizon shortly after sunset, with Venus looking brighter. Higher in the sky look for Jupiter, with Mars near the reddish star Aldebaran further to the east. As always, a telescope can enhance your view of these celestial bodies. Learn more at

Wow of the Week

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Even simple digital cameras can help capture wondrous perspectives in space with the help of a little artistic vision. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly took this artsy photo in 2016, showing himself and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti reflected in a window of the International Space Station as they awaited the arrival of a SpaceX Dragon capsule. Image credit: NASA.

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!