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Mars Rover’s Dead, Comet Incoming, JWST’s First Exoplanet

Keep your eyes on the sky for a comet, another Mars rover has died, the leaky Soyuz will be replaced, JWST dominates the American Astronomical Society meeting, and Starship is just around the corner.

A Good Comet is Coming

Keep your eyes on the sky over the next few weeks for your first chance to see a comet in 2023. Designated C3/2022 ZTF, the comet was first discovered in March 2022, and it has been getting closer to Earth and brightening. It’s expected to reach its brightest point in early February, taking a path through the sky to bring it close to the Big Dipper and Cassiopea. Astronomers have calculated that it’s on a 50,000-year orbit, so it’s been eons since its last visit. It should look great in a pair of binoculars or a small telescope.

Another One Bites The Martian Dust

The terrible dust on Mars has claimed another victim. This time it’s China’s Zhurong rover, which was supposed to wake up from hibernation on December 26th. China’s Nationational Space Administration has tried to reestablish communications with Zhurong, but they’ve been unsuccessful. The rover was put into hibernation six months ago to help it survive the Martian winter when temperatures get down to -100C. A regional dust storm also cloaked the area, reducing the energy it could use to keep its batteries operational.

The Leaky Soyuz Needs to Be Replaced

The Soyuz MS-22 that was leaking coolant last month will be replaced. This decision was made after inspecting the ship currently attached to the ISS. Roscosmos will launch the replacing MS-23 ship in February in an autonomous mode. Temperatures inside MS-22 can climb into the low 40s. Thus, it is considered unsafe to use in a crewed flight unless absolutely necessary. The other option for the ISS crew is the Crew Dragon which should be able to carry up to 7 people. But let’s hope that it won’t be needed.

James Webb Finds Its First Exoplanet

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

Early Galaxies from James Webb

This week the American Astronomical Society is meeting for the first time since the James Webb Space Telescope became operational, so there’s been a mountain of Webb news. One remarkable story is this image of primordial galaxies captured by JWST. These galaxies are just a few thousand light-years across and have so much star formation they’re heating the surrounding gas and dust, so it glows in the ultraviolet (redshifted to infrared after billions of years). Their structure matches newly discovered “green pea” galaxies, which have the same behavior and are much closer, and, therefore, easier to study.


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