Major Scientific Achievements of 2020 | Let’s Look Back

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.

Index

January

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.

February

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.

March

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.

Artist's illustration of Ikaria Wariootia. Source: https://phys.org/
Artist’s illustration of Ikaria Wariootia. Source: https://phys.org/

NASA names the next Mars Rover

NASA officially names the Mars 2020 roverPerseverance. 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.

April

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.

Artist's illustration of Kepler-1649c. Source: cnn.com
Artist’s illustration of Kepler-1649c. Source: cnn.com

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.

May

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.

Artificial red blood cells, like the one shown here, could carry oxygen, therapeutic drugs and other cargo in the bloodstream. Source: https://phys.org/
Artificial red blood cells, like the one shown here, could carry oxygen, therapeutic drugs and other cargo in the bloodstream. Source: https://phys.org/

June

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.

July

First Photo of Multiple Exoplanets Orbiting a Sunlike Star

The European Southern Observatory photographed for the first time two giant planets around 14 and 6 times more massive than Jupiter orbiting a sun-like star – TYC 8998-760-1.

The two giant planets in the TYC 8998-760-1 system are visible as two bright dots in the center (TYC 8998-760-1b) and bottom right (TYC 8998-760-1c) of the frame, noted by arrows. Source: https://www.space.com/
The two giant planets in the TYC 8998-760-1 system are visible as two bright dots in the center (TYC 8998-760-1b) and bottom right (TYC 8998-760-1c) of the frame, noted by arrows. Source: https://www.space.com/

August

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.

Approximate true-color image of Ceres.  Source: Wikipedia
Approximate true-color image of Ceres. Source: Wikipedia

September

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.

October

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.

Titan's atmosphere makes Saturn's largest moon look like a fuzzy orange ball in this natural color view from the Cassini spacecraft. Source: Wikipedia
Titan’s atmosphere makes Saturn’s largest moon look like a fuzzy orange ball in this natural color view from the Cassini spacecraft. Source: Wikipedia

November

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.

Two examples of protein targets in the free modeling category. Alphafold predicts highly accurate structures measured against the experimental results. Source: https://deepmind.com/
Two examples of protein targets in the free modeling category. Alphafold predicts highly accurate structures measured against the experimental results. Source: https://deepmind.com/

December

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.

The great conjunction of 2020. Source: https://www.timeanddate.com/
The great conjunction of 2020. Source: https://www.timeanddate.com/

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!