The DownlinkJun 14, 2024

Space superlatives

Space Snapshot

Frosty olympus mons perspective view

Nobody would have thought to look for water frost at Mars’ equator, but ESA’s orbiting Mars spacecraft ExoMars and Mars Express have discovered just that. This image shows an oblique view of Olympus Mons created using image data from Mars Express. Olympus Mons is one of a chain of volcanoes that have been found to harbor water frost on a part of the planet where it was thought unlikely for frost to exist.

Fact Worth Sharing

Mars illustration

Olympus Mons is the largest volcano in the entire Solar System, but it doesn’t actively produce lava. Jupiter’s moon Io has the Solar System’s most active volcano, Loki, which is topped with a lava lake 202 kilometers (126 miles) in diameter.

Mission Briefings


Two legends of space exploration have died. Ed Stone, a hugely influential space physicist and planetary astronomer perhaps best known for his role as project scientist for NASA's twin Voyager spacecraft, passed away on June 9 at the age of 88. And Bill Anders, the Apollo 8 astronaut who captured the iconic Earthrise photo (pictured), passed away on June 7 at the age of 90. Both men made enormous impacts on humanity’s relationship with the Cosmos. Image credit: NASA.

small bodies

JWST helped detect an asteroid collision in another star system. Astronomers using JWST and the Spitzer Space Telescope have discovered what appears to be a huge collision between giant asteroids in the star system Beta Pictoris. This young star system is undergoing a period of tumultuous collisions much like the one that formed planets in our own Solar System.


South Korea has established a space agency. While Korea has already been active in space exploration, the new Korea Aerospace Administration (KASA) will consolidate and coordinate efforts, oversee space policy, and cultivate space-related enterprises. The agency has stated a goal of landing a spacecraft on Mars by 2045.


Kidney failure could be a serious obstacle to getting humans to and from Mars. This week, the largest analysis of kidney health in spaceflight to date reported evidence that microgravity and radiation both contribute to potentially deadly kidney damage after long periods of time. This would likely affect human exploration of Mars, given the timescales required to travel to and from our neighboring planet.

From The Planetary Society

Exoplanet rings
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Exo! Exo! Read all about ‘em! The latest issue of The Planetary Report is all about exoplanets, the diverse and intriguing worlds that orbit other stars. Read about the latest in the search for Earth-like worlds, meet some superlative-worthy exoplanets, see member-created exoplanet artwork, and much more. Pictured: An artist’s impression of the exoplanet Wasp J1407b with its magnificent set of rings. Image credit: NASA / Ron Miller.

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Calling all designers! What’s your vision for our magazine? The Planetary Report has been an integral part of The Planetary Society since our very earliest days, and it’s due for a makeover. We’ve opened up a public call for designers to reimagine the look and feel of our quarterly member magazine. If this is you, we want to hear from you! This call is open to qualified individuals and organizations from anywhere in the world. Learn more.

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Want to name a quasi-moon? RadioLab's Latif Nasser returns to this week’s Planetary Radio with a new public naming contest for a quasi-moon of Earth. You can submit your name idea right now for consideration. Entries will be reviewed by a panel of judges in October, and the public will vote for their favorite of the 10 finalists. Plus, learn more about how to observe the upcoming nova in Corona Borealis.

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DART proved that asteroids can be redirected. What else did we learn? In September 2022, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft intentionally smashed into the asteroid moonlet Dimorphos. The test was soon declared successful, having altered the moonlet’s trajectory around its host asteroid Didymos. Since then, we’ve learned even more from the data. Find out what DART has taught us, and what’s next for Dimorphos and Didymos.

What's Up

Jupiter illustration

In the pre-dawn, look for Jupiter low to the eastern horizon, reddish Mars a little higher, and yellowish Saturn higher still. Find out more about what to look for in June’s night skies.

Wow of the Week

Xakarus alldredge exoplanet art

The June issue of The Planetary Report features a collection of exoplanet-inspired artwork by Planetary Society members, including this one from Xakarus Alldredge. This piece depicts Proxima Centauri b, an exoplanet orbiting within the habitable zone of the closest star to the Sun. Xakarus shared this piece in our online member community, where lots of other members share their artwork. Image credit: Xakarus Alldredge.

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!