The DownlinkMar 15, 2024

Transits are cool, but…

Space Snapshot

Perseverance deimos transit

When Mars’ moon Deimos passes in front of the Sun, it doesn’t create the same dramatic effect you get with a total solar eclipse on Earth. This image, taken in January by NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover, shows a snapshot of the tiny Deimos transiting the Sun. Indeed, Earth’s experience of total solar eclipses, where the Moon perfectly covers the Sun, is unique in our Solar System. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU / MSSS / SSI.

Fact Worth Sharing

Sun illustration

The Sun is 400 times larger in diameter than the Moon. But because the Sun is also 400 times farther away from Earth than the Moon (most of the time), both objects appear to be the same size from the perspective of Earth.

Mission Briefings

Europa clipper plaque front

NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft will carry a message from Earth. The agency recently announced the details of a commemorative plate (pictured) that will be mounted on the Europa Clipper spacecraft, which is set to launch in 2024 and arrive at the Jupiter system in 2030. The plate includes an engraving of a poem by U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón, as well as a silicon microchip stenciled with more than 2.6 million names submitted by the public. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.


There are new budget details for NASA. The House of Representatives recently announced that the fiscal year 2024 budget has been approved, more than five months after that fiscal year began. Meanwhile, the President’s budget request for fiscal year 2025 has been released. It will now need to be approved by the House and Senate.


SpaceX successfully conducted its third Starship test flight. On March 14, Starship launched from Texas and reached an altitude of more than 230 kilometers (143 miles), traveling further and faster than it had ever done before. Although the vehicle did not survive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, the mission achieved many successes including a propellant transfer and opening and closing the payload door.

From The Planetary Society

Eclipse from the ocean
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The latest Planetary Report is here. The March Equinox issue of our quarterly member magazine is all about solar eclipses, including the total solar eclipse that will pass over North America on April 8. You’ll read about why solar eclipses are a rare phenomenon in the cosmic context, the science they enable, how to enjoy them best, and more. Members get the magazine delivered to their doors, but everyone can read it online for free. Pictured: A total solar eclipse viewed from a ship in the mid-Atlantic. Image credit: Tyler Nordgren.

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The Red Rover Goes to Mars program had a big impact. Twenty years ago, the Planetary Society program sent students to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to work on the Mars Exploration Rovers program. One of these students, Abigail Fraeman, was so inspired that she decided to pursue a career in space. Now, 20 years later, she is the deputy project scientist for the Curiosity mission. Learn more about her story and how Mars exploration has inspired other kids.

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What’s it like to be an eclipse chaser? On this week’s Planetary Radio we asked Jim Bell, a professor from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University and former president of The Planetary Society's Board of Directors, who has had many eclipse-chasing journeys around the world. You’ll also hear from The Planetary Society's space policy experts, Casey Dreier and Jack Kiraly, about what the President’s recent budget proposal means for NASA's funding and future projects.

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The Day of Action is six weeks away! On April 28 and 29, Planetary Society members will gather in Washington, D.C., to meet with their representatives in Congress to take direct action to support planetary exploration, planetary defense, and the search for life. Register by April 15 to reserve your spot!

New in the member community

Member community screenshot
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What’s the best science-y science fiction out there? We turned to Andrew Fraknoi — an esteemed astronomer, educator, science communicator, and author — to find out. Join us on March 21 for a live event in the online member community, in which Andrew will share a curated selection of both new and classic science fiction tales that adhere wonderfully to science.

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If you’ve ever wanted to talk to an astronaut, here’s your chance. NASA Space Shuttle astronaut Tom Jones will chat with Planetary Society members on March 28 in a live virtual Q&A event. Tom will answer members’ questions and discuss his book “Space Shuttle Stories,” which draws on interviews with over 130 fellow astronauts who participated in all 135 Space Shuttle missions.

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Introducing the space industry job board. Whether you're on the lookout for a career, a volunteer or graduate opportunity, or need to fill a job opening, The Planetary Society’s space industry job board is the place for you. This part of our online member community is exclusive to Planetary Society members, so if you want to discover exciting opportunities in the space industry, log into the community or become a member today!

What's Up

Jupiter illustration

Look for Jupiter shining very bright in the evening eastern sky. Reddish Mars is low in the predawn east. And on March 21, Venus and the much dimmer Saturn will be very near each other in the predawn eastern sky, although very low to the horizon. Find out what else to look for in this month’s night skies.

Camp out for the eclipse

Hipcamp eclipse map

If you’re planning on traveling to the path of totality for the April 8 total solar eclipse, camping is a great, inexpensive option. Our partners at HipCamp have a new, interactive map of campsites all along the path of totality. With their unique tool you can explore the path, see prices and details, and book your campsite.

Wow of the Week

Europa clipper plaque back

It’s worth revisiting the plate designed for Europa Clipper in order to appreciate the engraving on its other side. The art on this side shows visual representations of the sound waves formed by the word “water” in 103 languages, as well as a symbol representing the American Sign Language sign for water. The design reflects the hopes that drive the mission, which is designed to explore the possibility of a liquid water ocean beneath Europa’s icy crust. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.

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!