Mars Rover is useless, comet is coming, JWST’s first exoplanet

Keep an eye out for a comet, another Mars rover has died, the leaky Soyuz is being replaced, JWST is dominating the American Astronomical Society meeting, and Starship is just around the corner.

A good comet is coming

Keep an eye on the skies over the next few weeks for your first chance to see a comet in 2023. Designated C3/2022 ZTF, the comet was first spotted in March 2022 and is approaching Earth and brightening. It is expected to reach its brightest point in early February and take a path through the sky to bring it close to the Big Dipper and Cassiopea. Astronomers have calculated that it is in an orbit 50,000 years old, so eons have passed since it was last visited. It should look great in binoculars or a small telescope.

More about the incoming comet.

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Another bites the dust of Mars

The terrible dust on Mars has claimed another victim. This time it’s China’s Rover Zhurong, which was supposed to wake up from hibernation on December 26th. China’s National Space Administration has attempted to restore communications with Zhurong, but they have been unsuccessful. The rover was put into hibernation six months ago to help it survive the Martian winter when temperatures drop to -100C. A regional dust storm also shrouded the area, reducing the energy it could draw to keep its batteries running.

More about Zhurong.

The leaking Soyuz needs to be replaced

The Soyuz MS-22, which leaked coolant last month, is being replaced. This decision was made after inspecting the ship currently attached to the ISS. Roscosmos will launch the replacement ship MS-23 in an autonomous mode in February. Temperatures in MS-22 can drop below 40. Therefore, use in a manned flight is considered unsafe unless absolutely necessary. The other option for the ISS crew is the Crew Dragon, which is said to be able to carry up to 7 people. But let’s hope it won’t be necessary.

James Webb finds his first exoplanet

James Webb confirmed his first exoplanet. It was first discovered by the TESS telescope and marked as an exoplanet candidate. It is called LHS 475b and is 41 light years away from us. The interesting part is that the planet is almost the exact diameter of Earth. For now, JWST definitely confirmed the exoplanet’s existence, but also observed its atmosphere. Research will take some time to determine its exact composition.

More about the exoplanet from JWST.

Early Galaxies by James Webb

This week, the American Astronomical Society is meeting for the first time since the James Webb Space Telescope went live, so there’s a mountain of Webb news. A notable story is this image of primordial galaxies captured by JWST. Measuring just a few thousand light-years across, these galaxies have so much star formation that they heat the surrounding gas and dust, making them glow in the ultraviolet (redshifted to infrared after billions of years). Their structure is consistent with newly discovered “green pea” galaxies, which behave the same way and are much closer and therefore easier to study.

More on Webb’s findings.

Build your own ELT

Do you have a little more time? Here’s to keep you busy. The European Southern Observatory has released a paper model of its Extremely Large Telescope. Although the actual telescope is almost 40 meters in diameter and can see Earth-like planets orbiting Sun-like stars, yours will be much smaller, made of paper, and unable to make any observations at all. Still, it will be fun and you can learn more about the telescope while making your paper telescope.

More about the Extremely Large Telescope model.

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