Top Space Discoveries Of 2015: Here's What You Missed
In case you missed it, 2015 was a remarkable year for scientists and their numerous space discoveries. The solar system, astronomy, planetary science and new space findings were quite exciting stories for our readers during the year. Here is what you missed in 2015.
"The Martian" Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, was a big hit not only for astronomers but also the entertainment world. Researchers examined the possibilities of farming on the red planet after Watney, who is stuck on Mars and uses his knowledge as a botanist to create a farm plot on Mars. In "The Martian," Watney combines his own waste with Martian soil to create a nutrient rich soil, which could be aid in growing plants. Researchers were impressed by Watney's technique and were curious to find out if it actually works. One of the main challenges in this study was figuring out the components of the Martian soil. Since "The Martian" was released, researchers have carried out numerous experiments to determine whether or not Watney's method could be applied to grow food on Martian soil.
Did someone say alcohol in space? Yep, that's right! Apparently Comet Lovejoy decided to have a happy hour. Researchers found what appeared to be large amounts of alcohol and sugar molecules in space. Comet Lovejoy was found releasing massive levels ethyl alcohol, which is found in alcoholic drinks. This discovery indicated that comets were a potential source of complex organic molecules, which are necessary for the creation of life. Comet Lovejoy was releasing an average of 500 bottles of wine every second during the peak of its activity. The presence of organic molecules on Comet Lovejoy and other comets are essential for the creation of life, according to the researchers.
Astronomers discovered a galaxy with a heartbeat and decided to take its pulse. Towards the end of their life, stars began to pulsate and their brightness increases and decreases overtime. The light form pulsating stars in distant galaxies is combined with other stars, which are not quite bright. The galaxy was identified as M87, where its brightness increased and decreased gradually, which revealed that the galaxy had a heartbeat every 270 days.
A few hours after it was discovered, an asteroid passed by quite close to the Earth, almost giving it a quick buzz. The tiny space rock is known as Asteroid 2015 VY105 and it was moving at a speed of 39,000 miles per hour (62,000 km/h). Due to its small size the asteroid posed no threat to the Earth. Even if the small space rock did fell into Earth's atmosphere, it would most likely disintegrate from air friction. Also, most meteorite activities occur over Earth's oceans' since 70 percent of the Earth is covered in water.
A team of astronomers the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) discovered that a tiny red dwarf star that is super stormy and it was producing solar flares, which were greater than the Sun's solar flares. The tiny red dwarf's emissions were 10,000 times brighter than what the Sun produces. This is the highest known levels of emissions to be found on a red dwarf. The star was about 35 light-years away from the Earth and found in the constellation Boites.
NASA's Cassini Scientists found what appeared to be a "global ocean of liquid water" on Saturn's sixth largest moon Enceladus. Saturn rings and Enceladus are made of ice and they are unable to maintain their internal heat. They are considered to be frozen and geologically dead. Enceladus' exposure to internal heating is responsible for its south polar water jets. The new sub-surface ocean finding is enabling scientists to study other potential sources of water in space and how it relates to the creation of life.
Astronomers were curious about an asteroid passing by the Earth and moon system on Christmas Eve, which was the perfect opportunity for radar observations. The space rock was identified as Asteroid 163899, also known as 2003 SD220, which would pass closest to the Earth at a safe distance of 6,787,600 miles (11 million km) away from the surface. The distance between the space rock and the Earth was 28 times the distance between the moon and the Earth, so there was immense distance between the Earth and the passing asteroid.
Astronomers from the Armagh Observatory and the University of Buckingham decided to keep a close eye on distant giant comets that are passing by the Earth, since they believed that some of these giant comets could pose a threat to the Earth. Most Earth smashers have been found in the asteroid belt between Mars, Earth and Jupiter. The nature and magnitude of near-Earth comets could have major potential impacts on Earth, thus the researchers figured they'd keep a close eye on potential near Earth comets.
Researchers found that Ceres' bright spots are actually salt deposits. The observations were carried out using NASA's Dawn spacecraft. Ceres has over 130 bright spots and most of them are affiliated with impact craters. Ceres' bright material is made up of a type of magnesium sulfate called hexahydrite. Epsom salt is a typical magnesium sulfate which is found on Earth.
NASA's Cassini spacecraft took its last close flyby of Saturn's active moon Enceladus. During its last flyby Cassini passed by Enceladus at a distance of 3,106 miles (4,999 kilometers). In its last mission Cassini will monitor geological activities on Enceladus from a distance until it would have completed its mission in Sept 2017.
For more great science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).