The outgoing year was no exception in the development of science and astrophysics. The coronavirus pandemic has also given astronomers and scientists around the world time to study the phenomena in more detail, draw up three-dimensional maps, analyze data and double-check them. Here is a short list of discoveries and research that will be remembered for 2020.
The most distant galaxy in the Universe has been found
Photo / Philippe Donn / pexels.com
Galaxy GN-z11 has become the most distant in the Universe, the magazine writes about it Nature Astronomy… It took light from the galaxy over 13 billion years to reach Earth. This light was emitted when only 420 million years have passed since the Big Bang. This galaxy was originally discovered in 2016, according to Hubble – this galaxy claimed the title of the most distant object in the known Universe, but its distance was not determined very accurately. The new study by astrophysicists used the Keck I telescope and the MOSFIRE spectrograph.
As a result, the researchers increased the accuracy of determining the redshift by a hundred times, it turned out that the light from GN-z11 reached the Earth for 13.24 billion years. Galaxy GN-z11 is indeed the most distant object in the observable universe. Astronomers are now observing this galaxy as it was just 420 million years after the Big Bang.
Extraterrestrial soil samples from the asteroid Ryugu
On December 14, 2020, specialists from the Japan Aerospace Research Agency (JAXA) opened a container with soil from the asteroid Ryugu. The operation was performed in a clean room laboratory at the Sagamihara Research Center. Scientists have found black grains in the entrance compartment of the trap container, these particles got there during the sampling process from the asteroid Ryugu. At the moment, studies of the container with samples are ongoing. In addition to the initial analysis, the gas and soil in the sample container will be analyzed in detail using several methods to allow molecular and isotopic studies of both the collected gas composition and the solids samples.
The Hayabusa 2 mission was launched in December 2014. In June 2018, the device reached the asteroid Ryugu and began studying it. There were two attempts to take soil from the asteroid. At the end of 2019, Hayabusa-2 successfully completed the task of collecting soil samples from an asteroid and in November began to move towards Earth. On December 5, 2020, the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa-2 dropped a capsule with soil collected on the Ryugu asteroid onto Earth. Inside the capsule there should be about a hundred milligrams of dust samples from the asteroid. On December 6, 2020, a search team from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) discovered a capsule with soil from the asteroid Ryugu at the Woomera test site in South Australia. At present, the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft went on a new mission to the asteroid (98943) 2001 CC21. The device will enter this space object in July 2026.
Phosphine discovered on Venus
Photo / NASA
In the Venusian clouds scholars discovered phosphine – a substance that is produced on Earth only by living organisms. Researchers have considered all possible scenarios for its formation and could not explain where it comes from in such quantities. Perhaps humanity is not yet aware of another way of phosphine formation in the conditions of other planets. But this discovery prompted many to launch research missions to this planet.
Search for traces of life on Mars
NASA has sent a new rover “Perseverens”, which will look for signs of the existence of microbiological life forms in the past of Mars. According to the mission plan, the rover is to land on the surface of Mars on February 18, 2021. The rover will collect soil samples, it will be taken by another vehicle, which will land next to Perseverance in 2028. Among other things, the device will also study the climate and weather on the planet. For the first time in the history of Mars exploration, an experimental helicopter drone will be delivered to the planet. Until now, no spacecraft capable of flying in the atmosphere have been used on Mars missions. With the help of a drone, it is planned to work out the technology of such flights.
In addition to NASA, in the outgoing year, the United Arab Emirates probe “Al-Amal”, designed to study the atmosphere of Mars, went to the red planet. China also sent the Tianwen 1 mission, which includes China’s first rover, as well as an orbiting probe.
Marsquakes and liquid water lakes
Фото / ESA & MPS for OSIRIS Team
Probe Project Team InSight published the first extensive study of Marsquakes. These data made it possible to find out a lot of interesting things about the internal structure of the planet. By earthly standards, the shaking was very weak. The exact cause of the reported concussion has not yet been established. It is possible that these movements are caused by changes in ground temperature. This is how moonquakes recorded by seismographs on the Moon are explained.
Italian scientists discovered at one of the poles of Mars system of four lakes with liquid water, which are under the surface of the planet. The corresponding article was published in the journal Nature Astronomy. And even in 2020, scientists discovered on Mars a whole system of lakes with liquid water (albeit under a thick layer of ice). The total area under the surface, which is occupied by the lakes, is 75 thousand square kilometers. The largest of the four lakes is in the center of the system and is 30 kilometers wide; it is surrounded by three smaller lakes, each several kilometers wide.
The strongest magnet in the known universe
Illustration / NASA
Astronomers opened magnetar, which turned out to be the strongest magnet in the known universe. Magnetar is a neutron star with a super-powerful magnetic field. It turned out that these same magnetars are sources of fast radio bursts – mysterious flares in the radio range, over the origin of which experts have long puzzled.
Search for exoplanets
Telescope TESS completed the main program and embarked on an extended mission. Recall that the TESS telescope is designed to search for exoplanets. For two years of operation, the space observatory has discovered more than 2,100 planets that are still listed as candidates, and 66 worlds, the existence of which has already been confirmed by independent observations. TESS discovered the first planet outside the thin disk of the Galaxy, and by rechecking the data of its predecessor Kepler, astronomers stumbled upon a planet that is as close to Earth as possible.
+1 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded for Study of Black Holes
Illustration / Nobel Media
The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics has just been awarded Roger Penrose, Reinhard Hansel and Andrea Guez for their discovery of one of the most exotic phenomena in the universe – black holes.