Our universe is what you would call an “open book” – limitless possibilities, open to interpretation, and never closed to new discoveries. Our planet Earth and solar system are merely tiny, tiny blips on the radar yet many of us may not know the significance of the thousands of space discoveries ever recorded. World Space Week 2015, from October 4th to October 10th, celebrates the contribution of science and technology to our better understanding of space and the world we live in. This year’s theme is discovery, which highlights the importance of recent technological innovations that allow us to explore and learn more about our universe. Now, follow along as we showcase a few cool space discoveries you may not have known of:
Vesta…Was a Planet?
Discovered in 1807, Vesta (pictured above) is the second largest asteroid in the main asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter. Yet, it is not your typical asteroid – in fact, when first discovered, Vesta was actually considered a planet. Rather than one solid rock, it is comprised of different layers, much like Earth, such as a core, mantle, and crust. Scientists believe that many objects similar to Vesta collided to form terrestrial planets, but Vesta was left in the dust, almost literally. Learn more about Vesta in our exclusive Q&A with Dr. Marc D. Rayman.
Saturn, You Are Not the Only One With Rings
When you think of rings and space, Saturn is probably the first thing that you think of, right? Discovered in the 1600s, Saturn’s rings formed as various space objects collided together and were drawn into the planet’s gravitational forces. However, in March 2014, astronomers found that an asteroid-like object called Chariklo also has a ring system, making this unique object the only one of its kind with rings.
The Coldest Star
The Sun is the “original” star. The Sun is over 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus, all other stars, even the smallest and coldest ones, are still far too hot for habitation, right? You may not believe it, but in 2011 NASA discovered that a star called WISE 1828+2650 is only 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just another ordinary summer day here on planet Earth. In fact, that temperature is so “cold” for a star that is it now classified as a Y dwarf, which includes a small group of the coldest star-like objects in the solar system.
Titan’s Magical Island
A magician must have made his or her way to Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, because in 2013 scientists were baffled by the appearance and disappearance of an intriguing land-like feature. Titan is already unique since photos from the Cassini spacecraft revealed bodies of water on the surface but new photos of the “magical island” left astronomers with more questions than answers. Joining Earth as the only worlds in the solar system with seas and lakes, it appears Titan is waiting for the right moment to fully reveal itself to all of its neighbors.
(Image: World Space Week Association)
The discoveries that we have shared today are only a few among the thousands of cool space discoveries ever recorded. Knowledge of the planets in our solar system can only paint so much of a picture when thinking about space as a whole. Educating ourselves and our youth about the origins of planets and other objects gives us a better sense of how small our planet is in this seemingly infinite universe. Space exploration has led to the most mind-boggling finds and new information on even a speck of dust far, far away gives us great insight into what really exists out there.
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