2018: This year in space discoveries

2018: This year in space discoveries
A computer-simulated image of a supermassive black hole at the core of a galaxy ©NASA, ESA, and D. Coe, J. Anderson, and R. van der Marel (STScI)

As 2018 comes to an end, SciTech Europa revisits some of the highlights of this year in space discoveries.

Some of 2018’s most interesting space discoveries include the answer to the black hole information paradox, the confirmation that Saturn’s rings are disappearing at a fast rate, and the observation that the previous knowledge of the galaxy’s giant supermassive black hole was in fact all an optical illusion.

Mysterious disappearances

Scientists from the University of Geneva made observations which suggest that mysterious disappearing hot neptunes have lost their atmosphere and are turning into smaller planets called super-Earths.

Saturn’s iconic rings are vanishing at a worst-case scenario rate, meaning that we are lucky to be around during the middle of Saturn’s lifetime. This could even mean that giant ring systems of Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune existed previously, which now only have thin rings remaining.

©NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Black holes

Astronomers discovered that the high levels of scandium, vanadium, and yttrium discovered near the galaxy’s giant black hole were actually an optical illusion.

An artist’s interpretation of a black hole. ©NASA, and M. Weiss (Chandra X -ray Center)

Stephen Hawking’s final paper asked the question ‘what happens to quantum information when it disappears into a black hole?’, since quantum information can never be lost. He showed that the “soft hairs” of photons surrounding the black hole’s event horizon, where light cannot escape the gravitational pull, is recording the black hole’s entropy.

Scientists used computer simulations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and discovered that the ‘black hole donuts’ around supermassive black holes are actually more like fountains of gas.

The robotic exploration of Mars

According to NASA, their Curiosity rover identified fragments of complex organic molecules. These molecules in the shallow surface of Mars are further evidence that Mars could have hosted life at one point.

NASA launched InSight, which studied the interior of Mars and provided the first ever sounds of wind on Mars.

NASA announced that Mars 2020 will continue the search for life on Mars and prepare for human exploration.

This year, scientists created the soundtrack to replicate the sound of the sun rising on Mars, which you can watch below.

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