The more advanced technology becomes, the more opportunities scientists have and the more we can learn about our universe. Every year, the cosmos reveals more and more of its secrets to us; in the near future, we’ll likely learn things we couldn’t even imagine before. Find out what space discoveries have been made in recent years.
1) Another satellite of Pluto:
There are now four known satellites of Pluto. Chiron was discovered in 1978 and is Pluto’s largest satellite. This satellite has a diameter of 1205 kilometers, leading many scientists to believe that Pluto is actually a “double dwarf planet”. Nothing more was known about the icy bodies orbiting Pluto until the Hubble Space Telescope detected two more satellites, Nicta and Hydra, in 2005. These space bodies are between 50 and 110 kilometers in diameter. But the most surprising discovery awaited scientists in 2011, when Hubble managed to capture another satellite of Pluto, temporarily named P4. Its diameter ranges from 13 to 34 kilometers. What is remarkable here is that Hubble photographed such a small space object, which is about 5 billion kilometers away.
2) Giant cosmic magnetic bubbles:
Two NASA Voyager probes have detected magnetic bubbles in a region of the solar system known as the heliosphere, which is 15 billion kilometers from Earth. In the 1950s, scientists thought this region of outer space was relatively flat, but when Voyager 1 reached the heliosphere in 2005 and Voyager 2 in 2008, they detected turbulence produced by the Sun’s magnetic field and magnetic bubbles formed there, about 160 million kilometers in diameter.
3) The tail of the star Mira A:
In 2007, the orbiting GALEX Space Telescope scanned Mira A, an old red dwarf star, as part of an upcoming project to scan the entire sky in ultraviolet light. Astronomers were shocked to discover that Mira A has a long tail extending behind it, like a comet, about 13 light-years away. The star is traveling through the Universe at an extraordinarily high speed of about 470,000 kilometers per hour. Previously, stars were believed to have no tails.
4) Water on the Moon:
On October 9, 2009, NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) discovered water in a cold, permanently shadowed crater at the Moon’s south pole. LCROSS is a NASA probe that was designed to collide with the lunar surface, and a small satellite following it was to measure the chemical composition of the material that went up in the collision. After a full year of data analysis, NASA reported that our satellite had water in the form of ice at the bottom of this perpetually dark crater. Later, more data showed that a thin layer of water covers the lunar soil, at least in some areas of the Moon.
5) The dwarf planet Erida:
In January 2005, a new planet in the solar system, Erida, was discovered and caused a debate in the astronomical world about what should be considered a planet. Initially, Erida was thought to be the tenth planet in the solar system, but all objects in the Kuiper belt and asteroid belt were later relegated to a new class, the dwarf planets. Erida lies beyond Pluto’s orbit and is about the same size, although it was originally thought to be larger than Pluto. Erida is known to have a satellite, which has been named Dysnomia. So far, Erida and Dysnomy are considered the most distant objects in the solar system.
6) Traces of water flows on Mars:
In 2011, NASA, after providing photographs of the Red Planet, claimed to have evidence that water may have descended on Mars in the past and left traces. In fact, the images show long streaks similar to those left in rocks by currents. Scientists believe that these streams are salt water, which heats up during the summer months and begins to flow to the surface. Signs that Mars once had liquid water have been found before, but this is the first time scientists have noticed that these tracks change over a short period of time.
7) Saturn’s satellite Enceladus and its geysers:
In July 2004, the Cassini probe entered orbit around Saturn. After the Voyager mission approached the satellite, researchers decided to launch another spacecraft into the area to explore Enceladus in more detail. After Cassini passed by the satellite several times in 2005, scientists were able to make several discoveries, including that Enceladus’ atmosphere contains water vapor and complex hydrocarbon compounds that are emitted from the geologically active South Pole region. In May 2011, NASA scientists said at a satellite conference that Enceladus could be considered the first candidate to detect life.
8) Dark Flux:
The dark flow, detected in 2008, has provided scientists with more questions than answers. Clusters of matter in the Universe appeared to be moving at a very high speed in the same direction, which cannot be explained by any known gravitational force in the observable part of the Universe. This phenomenon has been dubbed “Dark Flux”. By observing large galaxy clusters, scientists have discovered about 700 galaxy clusters moving at a certain speed toward a distant part of the universe. Some scientists have even dared to suggest that the dark flux is moving due to pressure caused by another universe. However, some astronomers dispute the existence of the dark flow altogether.
The first exoplanets, which are planets that exist outside the solar system, were discovered in 1992. Astronomers discovered several small planets orbiting the star Pulsar. The first giant planet was observed in 1995 near our nearest star 51 Pegasus, which made a full rotation around the star in 4 days. As of May 2012, 770 exoplanets had already been recorded in the Encyclopedia of Exoplanets. Of these, 614 were part of planetary systems and 104 were multiple planetary systems. As of February 2012, NASA’s Kepler mission had identified 2,321 unconfirmed exoplanet candidates that are associated with 1,790 stars.
10) First planet in the habitable zone:
In December 2011, NASA confirmed the news of the discovery of the first planet located in the habitable zone, orbiting its Sun-like home star. The planet is called Kepler-22b. It has a radius of 2.5 times that of Earth and orbits its star in a zone suitable for life. Scientists are still unsure of the planet’s composition, but the discovery is an important step toward finding Earth-like worlds.