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Amazing astronomical discoveries that changed our vision of space

by Staff writer
18 Nov 2020 at 20:12hrs | Views
Today, we might be living in a period that could eventually be called the beginning of space exploration era. One space company after another is working to make satellite launches more affordable, stations are being built on the moon, and dreams of colonizing Mars no longer look like science fiction. Sure, we cannot yet claim to have space figured out, but it looks like humanity is approaching a very important stage in its development. Sure, our current astronomical achievements did not happen overnight. So, let's take a look at the most important astronomical discoveries that made it all possible.

Gravitational waves detection

Detecting gravitational waves is one of the recent astronomy discoveries, even though the theory behind it is not new. Albert Einstein proposed that accelerating objects with enough mass can produce gravitational waves back in 1916. Still, no one could detect the waves and prove this theory valid for another century. Finally, in 2015, US-based observatory LIGO felt an aftershock after two black holes collided.

Taking picture of black holes

Speaking of black holes, astronomers have been able to take high-quality pictures of a black hole in Messier 87 galaxy, making a breakthrough discovery in astronomy. The images also prove Einstein's gravitational waves theory, as now we can clearly see how the light bends around black holes.

Stars moving around black holes

This significant discovery in astronomy has won astronomers behind it a Nobel Prize in 2020. A supermassive black hole has been discovered in our own Milky Way galaxy. Stars orbiting this massive hole create a shining disc of light around this lurking monster.

Universe accelerating

Another example of new astronomy discoveries that resulted in the Nobel Prize for its research teams. Two teams were separately working on the same project, using telescopes to monitor universe expansion rate. In 2011, researchers won a Nobel Prize in Physics when they've collected necessary data.

Planet Found in Habitable Zone
With the help of telescopes, astronomers found evidence of a new planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, a star close to Earth. They believe that this planet is orbiting its star at a habitable distance. It also seems that planet temperature implies the existence of liquid water on its surface, which is the source of life as we know it. This is one of the most important discoveries in astronomy because it hints at a possibility of life outside the solar system.

Revealing thousands farther away exoplanets

Even though Proxima Centauri and its exoplanet is one of the biggest astronomical discoveries, Kepler telescope has taken 2,700 more shots of other exoplanets located farther from Earth. It took less than ten years, from 2009 to 2018, while Kepler was roaming through space. Interestingly, Kepler is a way more budget tech than Hubble, and no one expected this telescope to work for so long. Originally, astronomers believed Kepler would only last about two years.

Improving astronomical observations and measurements
Back in 2013, European Space Agency launched Gaia - a new spacecraft that has already collected information about billions of stars in Milky Way galaxy. This data ensured a deeper understanding of our galaxy, distance between stars, and their temperature. As a result, we now see cosmos differently.

Flying further than ever dared before

In 2012, NASA's spacecraft first punctured the veil between sun and interstellar space. While not precisely an astronomical discovery all by itself, this tech still unveiled a lot of data about distant stars. Plus, given that interstellar paths work both ways, astronomers started to receive data and objects from distant stars. In 2017, they detected Oumuamua, an object formed in another star system but clearly passing through ours.

Exploring farther corners of our solar system

Despite all the amazing data, we still had little understanding of our own solar system. Starting in 2015, the situation began to change as NASA's probe made a visit to Pluto. For the first time, astronomers got detailed pictures of this planet's surface. Pluto appeared way more varied than scientists dared to assume at first.

Later in 2019, the same probe detected icy body Arrokoth - something that has been around since our solar system was very young. Even earlier in 2011, NASA spacecraft explored asteroid belts and got images of dwarf planets a bit closer to home.

With such amazing astronomical discoveries, it is no wonder that more and more companies are eager to get into space. With space tech rapidly evolving and new discoveries made every year, we may be at the beginning of the most exciting journey for mankind.

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