2020 is finally nearing its end. It has been a tough year for all of us. We would like to take a moment to pay our respects to all those people who lost their lives in the pandemic. As this year comes to an end, we are not going to dwell on the negatives that this year brought us. Instead, we are going to look back at the major scientific achievements of 2020 in the fields of science and technology and move on with a positive note.
The month of January saw a couple of cool major scientific achievements in the field of astronomy.
First Circumbinary Planet was Discovered
A 17-year-old high school student and summer intern at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center named Wolf Cukier discovered the mission’s first circumbinary planet called TOI 1338 b. A circumbinary planet is a planet that orbits two stars. The planet in question is around 6.9 times larger than Earth and lies 1,300 light-years away in the constellation Pictor.
Oldest Material found on Earth
Murchison meteorite fell in Australia in the year 1969 near Murchison, Victoria. This year, the scientists found that the oldest known material in the dust grains of the meteorite. The interstellar dust was as old as 7.5 billion years. It predates our sun and is over 4.54 billion years older than Earth itself.
The Largest Known explosion in the Universe
Astronomers discovered a large cavity in the Ophiuchus Supercluster which was the result of a massive cosmic explosion – the largest known explosion in the Universe. The blast was five times bigger than any other known explosion.
Discovery of Ikaria wariootia
Geologists from the University of California, Riverside discovered the first ancestor of familiar animals today, including humans in Australian fossils. The tiny, wormlike creature is the earliest bilaterian ( animals with bilateral symmetry as an embryo ) and was named Ikaria wariootia.
NASA names the next Mars Rover
NASA officially names the Mars 2020 rover – Perseverance. Associate Administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate selected the name out of 28,000 entries for the nationwide “name the rover” contest. A seventh-grade student from Virginia, Alexander Mather had submitted the winning entry at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Discovery of Kepler-1649c
NASA reports the discovery of an exoplanet named Kepler-1649c. According to Jeff Coughlin of SETI’s K2 Science Office, it is nearly the same size as Earth and likely to have a similar surface temperature than any other world yet found in data from the Kepler Space Telescope.
Evidence Found for the First Known Swimming Dinosaur
A team of researchers, supported by the National Geographic Society discovered that discovered unambiguous evidence that Spinosaurus aegyptiacus was aquatic and used tail-propelled swimming locomotion to hunt for prey in the water.
Development of Artificial Chloroplasts
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute developed a way to make hybrid synthetic living cells that can use photosynthesis. They combined thylakoids from spinach with a bacterial enzyme and an artificial metabolic module that can convert carbon dioxide into cell-sized droplets efficiently.
Synthetic Red Blood Cells Mimic Natural Ones
Researchers developed synthetic red blood cells that for the first time have all of the natural cells’ broad natural properties and abilities like flexibility, oxygen transport, and long circulation times. According to the researchers, future studies will explore the potential of artificial cells in medical applications, such as cancer therapy and toxin biosensing.
Fastest-growing Black Hole in the Universe
The giant black hole known as J2157 was discovered by the research team of The Australian National University in 2018. Towards the end of June, the same research team found out exactly how massive the fastest-growing black hole in the Universe actually is. It is known to have 34 billion solar masses and is consuming the equivalent of nearly 1 solar mass every day.
First Photo of Multiple Exoplanets Orbiting a Sunlike Star
Dwarf Planet Ceres is confirmed to be a Water-rich Body.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft gave scientists extraordinary close-up views of the dwarf planet Ceres. On analyzing the data collected near the end of the mission, scientists have concluded that the liquid came from a deep reservoir of brine, or salt-enriched water.
Astronomers Report Evidence of an Exoplanet in the Whirlpool Galaxy.
Rosanne Di Stefano at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics reports evidence of an extragalactic planet, M51-ULS-1b, an exoplanet outside the Milky Way Galaxy for the first time.
Discovery of cyclopropenylidene in the atmosphere of Titan
A circular molecule called cyclopropenylidene was spotted on Saturn’s moon Titan. This compound is made up of three carbon atoms in a ring with two hydrogen atoms attached and has not been seen in the atmosphere of any planet or moon before.
Discovery of Kylinxia and Revelation of Arthropod Origin
Scientists from Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGPAS) announced the discovery of Kylinxia, a five-eyed, long shrimp-like animal living. Kylinxia shows distinctive features of true arthropods. It bridges the evolutionary gap from Anomalocaris and forms a key “missing link” in the origin of arthropods.
One of Biology’s Biggest Mysteries was solved by AI
One of biology’s biggest mysteries was predicting how a protein folds into a unique three-dimensional shape. London-based AI lab, DeepMind, has cracked the problem and provided a better understanding of protein shapes which could play an important role in treating disease.
Great Conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn
The great conjunction of 2020 was the closest since 1623. A conjunction is when two objects appear close to each other in the sky. On December 21, the two planets Jupiter and Saturn shared the same heliocentric longitude. The closest separation occurred at 18:22 UTC when Jupiter was 0.1° south of Saturn and 30° east of the Sun.
We hope this list brought some joy and hope. Let us in the comments if we missed something.
Hope y’all have a great 2021. Happy New Year! Interested in reading our 2019 edition of Major Scientific Achievements? Read it here!