A scientific overview of 2019

Towards the end of the year people like to look back on all the places they have visited, new friendships made and adventures taken. At S-Cubed we looked back on 2019 from a slightly different lens, the scientific one. These are 10 of the major scientific breakthroughs made throughout the past 12 months.

China touched down on the far side of the moon

Just 3 days into the new year, the Chinese rover Chang’e-4 touched down on the far side of the moon, making it the first mission to successfully achieve such a feat. This landing has enabled scientists to study some of the moon’s most ancient rocks.

We bid goodbye to the Mars Opportunity Rover and witnessed the first Marsquake

After losing contact with the Opportunity rover back in 2018, NASA officials declared that it has ended its mission on the red planet on the 13th of February 2019. Meanwhile, the Mars InSight lander detected its first Marsquake on the planet. Since then it has recorded over a hundred seismic events.

A planet outside of our solar system was discovered which could be our best bet for finding alien life

For the first time ever, water vapour was detected in the atmosphere of the super-Earth exoplanet, a planet outside our solar system, K2-18b, which is located in the habitable zone of its star. This means that the planet likely has clouds that rain liquid water an essential thing for life to thrive.

Scientists obtained the first-ever photograph of a black hole

A black hole is an object with such a huge mass that not even light can escape its gravitational field. This is why scientists have not been able to produce visual evidence of such objects existing in space so far. This year the Event Horizon Telescope team managed to obtain such an image that aligns perfectly with what Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicts it should look like, providing further evidence that his theory is correct.

Climate change studies were never so scary

Research shows that the Antarctica and Greenland ice sheets are melting at the fastest rate ever, that of an average of 269 billion tons of ice per year. For comparison, two decades ago this was just 50 billion tons per year. Another study concerning the world’s oceans estimates that sea-level rise will reach 30-60 cm even if global warming is limited to 2C but will reach 60-110 cm if the current rate of global warming is maintained. A UN report also revealed that around 1 million plant and animal species are in danger of extinction, many within decades.

A giant squid was spotted in the Gulf of Mexico

This is the second time ever that the elusive creature, which lives up to 1000m below the surface, has been caught on camera.

A lost continent was found under Europe

Scientists have discovered the existence of an 8th continent, Greater Adria, which separated from North Africa about 240 million years ago and slid under what is now southern Europe. Although most of it is still hidden, its uppermost regions form mountain ranges in Europe such as the Alps.

The oldest skull of a human ancestor was found and a new species of human ancestor was discovered

A 3.8 million-year-old skull was discovered in Ethiopia belonging to the Australopithecus anamensis species finally allowing scientists to put a face to the oldest species that sits on the human evolutionary tree. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, a new species Homo luzonensis, which lived between 50,000 and 67,000 years ago, was discovered.

Quantum entanglement was captured on camera for the first time

Quantum entanglement is the phenomenon in which the quantum states of two or more objects have to be described with reference to each other even though the objects may be spatially separated. This year this phenomenon which Einstein described as “spooky action at a distance” was photographed for the first time.

Ebola became ‘no longer incurable’

Two new drugs have been identified which when offered to patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo in its worst-ever outbreak saved 90% of those infected making this a huge win in the fight against the disease.

cover image: source

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and are not reflective of ‘A Bird’s Eye View’ as a whole.


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