10 Recent SPACE DISCOVERIES That WILL BLOW YOUR MINDS
You keep asking for it so we’re going to keep on delivering! Back again, are we, on our epic journey through space. That vast blackness, speckled with planets, stars, and other wonders, is an infinite source for discovery. On this galactic quest, we’re checking out the top 10 most recent space discoveries. Boy, I hope number one is aliens!
Eh, it’s not aliens, but it’s something! In our continued exploration of a planet suited for possible habitation and a better understanding of the universe, NASA has made some incredible discoveries. Water on Mars, drunken comets, colossal exoplanets – they’re all brilliant finds, but they may pale in comparison to the 2015 reveal of an Earth-like planet found in a “habitable zone” around a star like the Sun. Kepler-452b became the 1,030th confirmed planet and is considered an “older cousin” to Earth. When compared to Earth, 452b is 60% larger, experiences an orbit that’s only 5% longer, is only 5% farther from its star, and experiences temperatures similar to our own. Despite the excitement of the discovery, astronomers are unsure if it houses the necessary properties to create or to sustain life.
Oldest Solar System
At 4.6 billion years old, our solar system is still an infant when compared to the 11.2 billion-year-old Kepler-444 star, which was discovered in January of 2015. Kepler-444, which is a quarter of the size of the Sun, rests 117 light years away from Earth and is orbited by its own quintet of planets that range in size. The extremely hot and uninhabitable planets are so close to the star that a complete orbit only takes 10 days - 78 days quicker than Mercury’s considerably rapid orbit around the sun. While the planets may not offer the potential of future habitation, the solar system’s age shows that planets were forming 7 billion years before our solar system even came into the picture.
Water on Mars
We now know that Mars was once partially covered in a vast ocean, but the dissolving of that sea of red may not have been the end of the existence of water on the Red Planet. It’s known that water can be found as ice and vapor, but in September of 2015, NASA found strong evidence that flowing, liquid water still exists. Through signatures detected on an imaging spectrometer from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, researchers located signs of hydrated minerals, including salt. When temperatures are above -10 F or -23 C, dark streaks are visible on downward slopes, leading many to believe that liquid water is flowing across the surface. This, of course, continues the debate on the possible existence of extraterrestrial life in the universe.
Supernovae are not a new concept, not by a long shot; but in June of 2015, a newly discovered supernova, dubbed ASASSN-15lh, changed what we knew about them so far. About 3.8 billion light-years away, ASASSN-15lh erupted at an intensity 570 billion times brighter than the Sun. In relation to typical supernovas, that’s 200 times more powerful and twice as bright as the current record-holding exploding star. At such an intensity, the Sun would take over 90 billion years of emissions to match the amount of energy expelled. The eruption was found by telescopes located in Cerro Tololo, Chile during an automated survey for the international collaboration, SuperNovae.
Comet Lovejoy’s Drunken Trail
Sometimes scientific discoveries are just too amazing to ignore. Such is the case for Comet Lovejoy. Discovered in 2011, the comet itself wasn’t anything too out of the ordinary, but all of that changed four years later when NASA observed the object releasing a rather familiar substance around it. During its peak activity, Lovejoy was releasing as much as 500 bottles of wine worth of alcohol every second – and yes, the substance it was expelling was ethyl alcohol, the same found in some of your favorite beverages. Researchers believe the mixture of sugar and alcohol could be evidence that comets carry the organic molecules needed for the creation of life.
They sound like a delicious beverage for some beach-side lounging, but Martian tsunamis are actually another incredible discovery found through research of Mars. Scattered across the planet’s red surface, researchers found tsunami deposits that support the hypothesis that, at one time, Mars was once home to a large ocean. While the planet was known for being an extremely dry and cold desert, scientists predict that aquifers beneath the surface erupted, flooding and carving out Mars’ northern plains to form an ocean of red. Within the deposits left behind from the tsunamis, researchers believe that the finer grains could have preserved some evidence of any microbial activity in the planet’s history.
Europa’s Water Plumes
If you’re looking for the existence of life in space, the general rule of thumb is to follow the water. As of September of 2016, Jupiter’s moon Europa became a topic of astrological interest with the discovery of evidence of an ocean beneath its icy exterior. Observing the moon with ultraviolet light, astronomers came across evidence of water plumes overflowing into space. Found around Europa’s south pole, the water plumes have piqued interest in NASA personnel as water is one of three components in the development of organic life. A thick icy layer may stand between astronomers, Europa’s surface, and the official discovery of water, but NASA researchers are aiming for a mission to the moon by the 2020s.
HD 106906 b
Back in 2005, the Magellan Telescopes at the Las Campanas Observatory of the Atacama Desert of Chile started observation of a star known as HD 106906. Eight years of observation later, a team led by University of Arizona graduate student Vanessa Bailey noticed another body orbiting the star. When observation switched to the new form, the team realized they discovered the first exoplanet and named it HD 106906 b. The massive planet is 11 times the mass of Jupiter and adds a unique twist to current planet formation theories. Essentially, HD 106906 b is far too large to fit in with the theory that primordial disks of dust and gas are strictly responsible for planet formation. While astronomers continue to search for an answer to explain its existence, the planet is believed to be 13 million years old and still carries a glow from its formation.
Universe Expansion Rate
Back in June of 2016, researchers at the Space Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins University were adamant that the universe was expanding at a rate of 5 to 9% faster than originally thought. It was believed that this finding would help better understand the unknowns like dark energy and dark matter, but in the following October, researchers including Professor Subir Sarkar of Oxford University claim that the conclusion may have been a bit premature. Analyzing a larger catalog of 740 Type Ia supernovae, the same type used in the original research, Sarkar’s team determined that there was a lack of evidence showing an accelerated expansion. This finding not only potentially negates the June 2016 study but also the initial Nobel Prize-winning discovery in the 1990’s.
About 5 billion miles or 8 billion kilometers beyond Pluto, lays a new discovery that professor of astronomy at the University of Michigan, David Gerde, and his team of students came across. The new dwarf, named Bahama Sunrise, was discovered using a Dark Energy Camera, which was built to monitor how galaxies and supernovas move away from the Earth. Alright, so they decided to go with 2014 UZ224 instead of “Bahama Sunrise,” but the Dark Energy Camera is true! Believed to be the 3rd most distant object in the solar system, 2014 UZ224 was first seen in 2014, but confirming what it was took an additional 2 years. There’s still some question as to its real identity as Gerde believes it could even be too small to be a dwarf planet. Though its orbital pattern is still unknown, it was determined that a year on UZ224 is the equivalent of 1,100 years on Earth.