The ‘space’ is maybe the most intriguing topic we have ever come across. Just the idea of space travel or unraveling the other planets is beyond overwhelming. For decades, our human race is trying to fully understand the nature and complexities of the extensive universe. Though our ancestors were often skilled astronomers and mathematicians, their resources only restricted them to go so far in their discovery of the universe. Modern technologies and courtesy of our predecessors, enabled us to take a giant leap forward on the subject of space. In this list, we have assembled not the known facts and facets, but the latest space discoveries that scientists have made.
30. Earth like planets
In 2013, space observers confirmed that there are around 20 billion terrestrial planets present across our galaxy. A six-year long research that surveyed millions of stars using the micro-lensing technique concluded that there are far more Earth-sized planets in our milky way than we have suspected earlier.
According to the study, the average number of planets per star is greater than one. This means that there is likely to be a minimum of 1,500 planets within just 50 light-years of Earth. If that is the case, there are planets, billion of them which can sustain life.
29. The Gold Star Collision
Gold is undoubtedly one of the most precious substance in the world. But do you ever think that how gold was formed?. For many years, scientists had theorized that the heavy elements, such as gold, platinum, lead and uranium, had their origin in supernova explosions. But an extensive astronomical observation has produced evidence that such precious metals come from something even more colossal interstellar activity like the collisions of ultra-dense objects called neutron stars.
28. Martian tsunamis
In recent years, we have come really close in the process of understanding Mars to the full extent. Recently, scientists have discovered traces of mega tsunamis in the past on the red planet which suggest that it had oceans, which could have supported life. Some researchers also propounded that those giant waves might have been triggered by massive meteor impacts.
27. The Kepler-10c
The Earth, with the equatorial radius of 6,378,1 km, is the largest of the four terrestrial planets in our solar system. But in 2014, scientists have discovered a new planet twice the size of the earth and 17 times as heavy. The super giant planet Kepler-10c is located around 568 light-years away from the earth in the Draco constellation. Though planets of this size were thought to be gas giants, Kepler-10c is remarkably similar to our own planet, and thus earned the name “Godzilla of Earth”.
26. Mountains of Io
Io is the innermost of the four Galilean moons of planet Jupiter. Its surface is dotted with hundreds of mountains, some of the peaks even taller than the Mount Everest. It is also the most geologically active object in the solar system with nearly 400 active volcanoes.
Over the years, planetary scientists have hypothesized that Io’s mountains formed through thrust faulting, where deeper rocks are pushed up and over shallower rock layers. Recently, various research and computer simulations do confirm that these lithospheric stresses lead to thrust faulting in Io’s crust, uplifting large blocks of the planetary surface to form the mountains.
25. Saturn’s new ring
Saturn is famous for the unique planetary ring which revolves around it. But in 2009, NASA’s infrared Spitzer Space Telescope detected an another ring surrounding the planet. The ring lies at the far reaches of the ringed planet, situated at about 3.7-7.4 million miles (6-12 million km) away from the Saturn’s surface. The newly discovered ring is thick, with the vertical height 20 times larger than the diameter of the planet itself. It is made up of a thin array of ice and dust particles.
24. Oldest star in the Universe
Just a glance at the sky won’t tell you which star is the oldest, will it?. But as astonishing as the fact that space scientist have discovered the oldest star in the universe, the age of that star is near breathtaking. In 2014, a group of scientists discovered the SM0313 at the distance of 6000 light years from the earth.
According to the studies, it is the oldest star known till date, with an age of approx. 13.6 billion years. There are also some speculations about the HD 140283 or Methuselah star located at about 190 light years away from the earth, that it can be older than the SM0313 and may have formed soon after the Big Bang. If that is the case, we may have a new winner.
23. Havoc on Mars Magnetosphere
In October 2014, just weeks before the famous encounter of the comet C/2013 A1 with Mars, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft entered Mars’ orbit. Comet C/2013 A1 popularly known as Siding Spring was discovered back in 2013 by Scottish-Australian astronomer Robert H. McNaught.
Scientists were excited by this one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be intimate with a view of the havoc that the comet’s passing wreaked on the ‘weak’ magnetic environment, or magnetosphere, around Mars.
“Comet Siding Spring plunged the magnetic field around Mars into chaos,” said Jared Espley, a MAVEN team member at NASA. “We think the encounter blew away part of Mars’ upper atmosphere, much like a strong solar storm would.” Mars was flooded with a tide of charged particles from the comet, and its powerful magnetic field temporarily merged with the planet’s own weak one. Such was the effect of the comet, even hours after its departure, some disruption continued to be measured.
22. Cosmic Purgatory
After nearly 34 years of journey through the cosmos, NASA’s space probe the Voyager 1 entered a strange region, earlier unexplored somewhere between our solar system and interstellar space in 2011. Astronomers have termed the new region of space as the cosmic purgatory. Just at the edge of our Solar System, scientist reported the outward speed of the solar wind to near zero and double the intensity of magnetic field in the stagnation region compared to other parts of the solar system.
21. The hyperactive galaxy
A starburst galaxy located 12.2 billion light years away from the earth, was first discovered in 2008 by Hubble telescope. Soon after the discovery it became the brightest starburst galaxy in the distant universe. As its name suggests, a starburst galaxy is a galaxy which is going under an exceptional rate of star formation. It was named the Baby Boom galaxy because of its very unusual behaviour of rapid star formation. The Baby Boom galaxy generates over 4,000 stars annually, which is 400 times greater than that of the Earth (10 per year).
20. Morse codes on Mars
World’s leading space agencies are studying Mars and its surroundings for a while now. Recently, in 2016, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance orbiter has sent some puzzling images of the Martian dunes which left scientists in a perplexing situation.
The images taken by the (HiRISE) on the MRO highlighted a region that showed unique dunes with shapes reminiscent of dots and dashes, just like the Morse code. With the current understanding of Mars, scientists have narrowed down the possible reason for such phenomena.
According to them, a circular depression like infilled crater must have limited the amount of sand available for dune formation. As a result dunes forms distinctdot s and dashes. The “dashes” are formed by bi-directional winds, coming from two directions at right angles to the dunes, funneling it into a linear shape.
The smaller “dots” are the real mystery as they only tend to occur where there is some interruption to the process forming those linear dunes. This process is still not well understood at present.
19. The white planet
Astronomers at Southern Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado confirmed that the Mars or the Red planet was actually been white in the past. Recent researches show that Mars is emerging for a relatively recent ice age. Well, foregoing Martian climate studies suggested that dynamic orbital changes could lead Mars to the ice age, but now researchers found the evidences of these ice age on the planet. With the help of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, scientists detected many significant signs of ice age started sometime at about 370,000 years ago.
18. Premature death of stars
According to the theory of stellar evolution depending on its mass, a star’s lifetime can range from a few million years to trillion of years. But, a research conducted by Monash university made an unexpected discovery that some stars in the Messier 4 globular cluster, one of the closest and brightest collection of stars are dying prematurely ahead of the time. The team found that about half of the stars skip their Red Giant stage, instead becoming white dwarfs, cutting out millions of years in their life cycle.
17. Life in Europa?
In this age of technology, we are often keen on finding possible evidences of life on other planets. But, recent discoveries show that there are some possibilities of life on moons too. In 2012, a group of scientists detected towering plumes of water jetting away from Europa’s (one of the four Galilean satellites) surface.
After careful studies, it was found out that when the icy moon passes near to Jupiter, it shoots out water up-to 125 miles above its surface before raining back into the surface from its cracked southern pole. This is a strong indication that the water is abundant and probably not hard to find in Europa’s surface. New studies were initiated to determine the possibility of life on Europa.
16. The brightest supernova
In 2015, the All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASAS -SN) detected ASASSN-15lh in the southern constellation Indus. Also known as the SN 2015L, it is the brightest supernova ever seen. Its brightness is approximately 50 times greater then the whole milky way galaxy.
15. Mars’s Mohawk
The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) was launched in 2013, to study Martian atmosphere. Based on careful observation, scientists revealed that the planet is among the few fashionable things in the space. According to NASA, if the planets have personalities, Mars surely would be a Rock star. What the probe and NASA scientists found out is a “Mohawk” of escaping atmospheric particles at its poles that is being blasted away by solar winds from the planet’s atmosphere.
Atoms in the Mars atmosphere became electrically charged ions by solar and space radiation. These ions get stripped away from the upper Martian atmosphere by solar winds and solar flares through violent electric and magnetic forces. This creates a polar plume of escaping ions, and causing a Mohawk like effect.
14. A centaur with ring
There are only four major planets known for having the ring system – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. But in 2013, a group of scientists discovered a minor planet or centaur named 10199 Chariklo with a diameter of merely 250 kilometers, surrounded by a ring system consisting of two narrow dense bands, separated by a gap distance of 9 kilometers or so.
13. The alcoholic comet
The year 2015 couldn’t be more fun for Astronomy and space science when we captured the comet Lovejoy. While studying the fast-flying chunk of ice, scientists discovered the comet ejected ethyl alcohol same type of alcoholic beverage we use at a rate of 500 wine bottles per second.
12. Mars had more water than the Arctic Ocean
Although, astronomers and space scientists are currently working on “water on Mars”, they almost agree that the Red Planet used to have lots of water in the past. Data collected by NASA suggests that Mars once had enough water to completely cover the planet’s surface in one giant ocean. Moreover, there are also indications that water was likely concentrated in a single ocean bigger than the Arctic Ocean and occupied roughly 19 percent of Mars’ surface.
In an another research, Scientists measured the ratio between H2O and HDO (H2HO) present on Mars today and compared it to the water ratio from a 4.5-billion-year-old Martian meteorite. The results indicate that Mars lost more than 87 percent of its water content to open space.
11. Underground volcanoes on Mars in the past
According to new evidences from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, volcanoes have erupted beneath the martian surface billions of years ago. In 2016, while going through sets of data send from the mars orbiter, researchers revealed an oddly shaped region near the martian southern hemisphere which they named “Sisyphi Montes.”
The region is filled with flat-top mountains. When a volcanic activity occurs underneath a sheet of ice on Earth, the rapidly generated steam starts to accumulate and eventually leads to a massive explosion. In the case of the Earth, the resulted ash can have a distinct trail of minerals and other compounds, such as zeolites, sulfates and clays.
10. Mineral mystery on Mars
In the year 2015, the Curiosity Rover discovered a very disturbing fact on Mars surface. What unsettle the NASA scientists is that the probe founded a much higher concentrations of silica at some sites it has investigated than anywhere else it has visited since landing on Mars 40 months ago. Silica is a chemical compound found in rocks and minerals on Earth, primarily quartz but also in many other minerals.
“These high-silica compositions are a puzzle. You can boost the concentration of silica either by leaching away other ingredients while leaving the silica behind, or by bringing in silica from somewhere else,” said Albert Yen, a Curiosity science team member at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “Either of those processes involve water. If we can determine which happened, we’ll learn more about other conditions in those ancient wet environments.”
9. The Super-Earth Orbiting An Orange Dwarf
In 2014, the Kepler probe discovers the exoplanet HIP 116454b, this planet is approximate 2.5 times the size of Earth and 12 times its mass. This near Earth exoplanet orbits a type K orange dwarf, which is unlike a yellow dwarf such as our Sun. Orange dwarfs have less mass and up to three times the lifespan of yellow dwarfs. Although its star is cooler than our Sun, HIP 116454b orbits its star so closely that one year on the planet only lasts nine Earth days.
8. Interstellar plasma waves
In September 2013, NASA released audio recordings of plasma waves, the first sounds ever recorded in interstellar space. Donald A. Gurnett, the principle investigator of the Plasma Wave instrument on Voyager 1 revealed this intriguing finding by playing some plasma wave data in a press conference. He also explained that the sounds were solid evidence that Voyager 1 had left the heliosphere.
7. The Planet With Four Suns
If you think that the discovery of planets is confined only up to professional astronomers, then think twice. Recently, space scientists have confirmed the findings of amateur astronomers and volunteer citizens, who claimed to have discovered a planet orbiting not one, not two, but four stars. A Yale-led international team of astronomers confirmed discovery of the phenomenon, called circumbinary planet in a quadruple or four-star system.
Astronomical data transmitted by the NASA’s Kepler spacecraft confirmed that the planet in concern is orbiting two pairs of double-star. There are currently six planets are known to orbit two stars, but none of these are orbited by an another distant binary. The discovery of the planet was announced on 15 October 2012, and designated as Kepler-64b or ph1b (“Planet Hunters 1”).
6. Storm on Saturn
In 2013, NASA published a mesmerizing image of a hurricane swirling on Saturn’s north pole captured by the Cassini spacecraft. Cassini had to wait for years to take a closer view of the mysterious swirling pattern on the north pole of the gas giant in favorable light conditions after reaching the planet’s orbit. Trapped inside a perplexing, hexagonal cloud formation and featuring an eye that spans 2,010 kilometers (1,250 mi), this beautiful hurricane generates wind speeds of over 540 kilometers per hour (330 mph).
5. Hanny’s Voorwerp – A Space Oddity
Hanny’s Voorwerp is a very rare type of astronomical object known as a quasar ionization echo. It was discovered back in 2007 by Dutch schoolteacher Hanny van Arkel. It appears as a bright blob close to the galaxy IC 2497 in the constellation Leo Minor. As you can see there is a yellow patch at the region of HsV pointing the IC 2497, radio observations indicate that this is due to outflow of gas from the nearby galaxy’s core which is interacting with HsV to form a star.
4. Saturn’s Mysterious Eye
The above image was taken by the Cassini mission back in 2013 after it had been orbiting the ringed gas giant for several years. Scientists aren’t sure when the hurricane formed, but speculate that it could be a permanent weather feature.
3. The Smallest Planet
The smallest planet we’ve discovered till now is the Kepler-37b, found in 2013. The planet is slightly larger than Earth’s Moon, but at three times closer to its star (0.1 AU) than Mercury is to the Sun (0.38 AU). Its surface temperature is nearly 800°F. It may be a coincidence that the Kepler-37, a main sequence star, which hosts Kepler-37b, c and d is currently the smallest star discovered.
2. Shrinking iconic Red Spot of Jupiter
Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot has been in the center of focus in astronomical researches for about 300 years. For some time now, the earth sized spot has been shrinking over the past century, now only half its original width. Researches and predictions thus far only suggest that the enormous planet is basically a gas giant covered with swirling cloud streams and violent storms. Located at 22° south of the Equator, the Red spot is much bigger than the Earth. But now it’s shrinking without any explanation.
1. Gravitational waves
More than a century ago, Albert Einstein published his general theory of relativity and claimed that gravitational waves do exist. Since then, majority of the scientific community have sought to discover if the prediction of his theory is true. In 2015, scientists made perhaps one of the greatest breakthroughs of the century by detecting ripples in the fabric of space-time called gravitational waves, arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe.