What’s Going on in Outer Space?

May 16, 2017
About two months ago, NASA announced the discovery of seven new planets circling TRAPPIST-1 (a red dwarf star that’s about 40 light years away)—an exciting discovery—but perhaps what was even more exciting was that three of the seven planets could be habitable. You mean someone can travel to this planet and live there? Let’s go check it out! Well, hold on just one second. Before you get too excited and start packing your bags, we’re talking habitable in the sense that these planets are rocky and have the potential for containing liquid water.
Since the discovery of the planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1, many other exciting things have been happening in the area of space:
Image Credit: NASA
1) The Cassini spacecraft, which was sent into outer space almost 20 years ago, is going to complete its final data-collecting mission by September of this year. For its final mission, it will dive between Saturn and its rings in order to take pictures, produce detailed maps of its gravity and magnetic fields, collect data, and much more. What happens when Cassini has completed its mission? It won’t come back to Earth. Instead, it’ll destroy itself and dissolve into Saturn’s atmosphere.
Credits: NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook
2) SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy), or NASA’s flying observatory, just completed a study of the star Epsilon Eridani (eps Eri) and its planetary system. Located about 10.5 light-years away, it’s much younger than our solar system, but SOFIA confirmed that it’s put together like ours with debris disks like our asteroid belt, and a big planet that keeps the debris from reaching its outer zone, like Neptune does in our solar system. Cool, right?
Image Credit: NASA
3) Space scientists are doing all kinds of lab experiments on the International Space Station—things that just can’t be done in a lab on Earth. What’s the latest thing that they’re testing? Growing vegetables! Recently, NASA astronaut Jack Fischer harvested a crop of Chinese cabbage. The crew ate some of it and packaged up the rest for further research and testing on Earth. It’s not the first time that they’ve been successful at growing vegetables—they’ve grown lettuce before—but this is a first for cabbage! But rest assured, this won’t be their last harvest because the purpose behind these experiments is to see if astronauts can stay in outer space for longer missions. Being able to grow their own food while in space is one of the important steps for sustained and longer duration space missions. What do you think they’ll try to grow next?

Space is fascinating, right? From space discoveries to space travel, and everything in between, we here at Xyza will be sure to keep you updated on all things space!