Tuesday's science stories

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 12, 2021 - Science

Scientists discover 10 billion-year-old "super-Earth" planet

Artist's illustration of the planet TOI-561b. Image: W. M. Keck Observatory/Adam Makarenko

Scientists have discovered a rocky “super-Earth” planet in an ancient star system that likely formed 10 billion years ago, only a few billion years after our Milky Way galaxy came to be.

Why it matters: The newfound planet likely can't support life, but in general, researchers think older planetary systems have better odds of possibly harboring life because they're long-lived.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 12, 2021 - Science

InSight and Juno keep on trucking

Jupiter as seen by the Juno spacecraft. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's InSight lander on Mars and the Juno orbiter at Jupiter have new leases on life.

Why it matters: The spacecraft are expected to continue gathering data about their respective planetary targets during their newly extended missions, allowing scientists to learn more about seismic activity on Mars and turn their attention to the moons of Jupiter.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 12, 2021 - Science

Orbital wine comes back to Earth

Photo: NASA

Twelve bottles of red wine are making their way back to Earth after spending more than a year aboard the International Space Station.

Why it matters: The wine is more than just a frivolous novelty. The researchers behind the wine experiments — which also involved sending grape vines to the station — are hoping to learn more about how plants respond to stress, with an eye toward how they might behave on a warmer Earth in the future.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 12, 2021 - Science

The next big NASA rocket's time has come

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

It’s a make-or-break moment for NASA’s next mega-rocket: the Space Launch System.

Why it matters: The rocket — about 10 years in development and billions of dollars over budget — is expected to launch for the first time this year. Its success is key for NASA’s plans to bring people and payloads to deep space destinations like the Moon.