The coolest space discoveries from 2017
Let's rewind and take a look at all the explosive revelations.
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2017 has been an interesting year for science. Much has come our way in terms of scientific breakthroughs during the last 11 months. We've not only made great advancements in science and technology but also discovered some really cool stuff in the vast expanse that surrounds our tiny little planet.
These discoveries have brought the human race closer to finding the answers to deeper questions about the universe, and its own existence. So let's rewind and take a look at the explosive revelations.
Gold rush in the sky
In October, the US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), picked up something quite extraordinary: the collision of a pair of neutron stars that caused ripples through the fabric of space-time and “a flash brighter than a billion suns”.
This collision, which took place 130 million lightyears from the Earth, in the galaxy NGC 4993 — within the southern constellation of Hydra — sent a barrage of gravitational waves, x-rays, gamma-rays, radio waves and light waves towards us, along with the knowledge that the collision itself is the source of creation of heavy elements such as gold and platinum.
According to the estimates of Daniel Kasen, a theoretical astrophysicist at University of California, Berkeley, the neutron star collision produced around 10,000 Earth masses of heavy elements, including 200 Earth masses of pure gold, and maybe 500 Earth masses of platinum.
More proof of habitable planets outside our solar system
The year has seen space agencies discover a number of planets outside our solar system that are capable of sustaining life. The latest being the potentially rocky exoplanet K2-18b, which lies 111 light-years from Earth in the constellation Leo. It was discovered in 2015 by researchers using NASA's prolific Kepler space telescope.
The discovery team also found that K2-18b is about 2.2 times bigger than our planet, making it a so-called "super-Earth". However, if 111 light years sounds too far, then there are nearby stars Tau Ceti and Ross 128, which are 12 and 11 light years away.
Researchers claim that both have exoplanets that could potentially sit inside their stars’ habitable zones.
Cigar shaped asteroid or an alien spaceship?
As per the journal Nature, astronomers at NASA recently spotted a traveller of alien origins believed to be from a place far beyond our solar system. Named Oumuamua – the Hawaiian term for a messenger from afar – this interplanetary traveller recently flew by the Earth and is the first asteroid from outside our solar system to have been observed by man.
But the mystery doesn’t end there. Oumuamua does not look like any asteroid that has been observed by scientists before. Shaped like a pen with a reddish hue, Oumuamua is about 400m long - perhaps 10 times as long as it is wide, which has led to suggestions that it's an alien spaceship.
Jupiter's red spot bigger than the size of the earth
Everyone knows the biggest planet in the solar system, Jupiter, is huge. But despite its size, not much is known about it due to the topsy-turvy atmosphere of the planet. However, a major breakthrough was made this year with NASA's Juno spacecraft collecting valuable data while surveying the planet.
Findings revealed that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot — the solar system’s most famous storm — is almost one-and-a-half times the size of the Earth when it comes to width and is deeper than any ocean found on our little planet, at about 300km deep into Jupiter's atmosphere.
Elon Musk's 'Mission Moon 2022'
Though not exactly a scientific discovery, Elon Musk's plans to change how we travel to our solar system's friendly red planet, Mars, are revolutionary enough to warrant a place on this list.
Speaking at the International Astronautical Congress in late September, Musk made some paradigm-shifting announcements where he explained that SpaceX is refocusing its resources to work on an interplanetary transport vehicle that could take humans to Mars by as early as 2022.
Codenamed "Big F*cking Rocket", this new transport vehicle will carry out cargo missions to the red planet – at least two by the end of 2022 – and then follow it up with further transport missions carrying human settlers to Mars by 2024.