Astronomy has come a long way over the past century with discoveries and revelations from Einstein, Hubble, Bohr and other great astronomers, physicist and scientists. Some of the greatest astronomical discoveries of all time include the discovery of other planets in our solar system, the true relation of the Earth to the Sun, the mathematical calculations for planetary orbits by Johan Hepler, and universal gravitation by Isaac Newton. There are other quite shocking discoveries in the world of modern astronomy, showing us how cool the universe really is.
Astronomy Is Important
According to Dr. Sten Odenwald, astronomers often believe that the importance of their work is self-evident. But in these present and hard times, even the most obvious benefits of astronomy activity come under scrutiny. Astronomy is essential to some people’s lives because it let us know and experience a larger reality beyond the four walls of our home or beyond our 9-5 workday.
Dr. Odenwald also added that many of us find great excitement and beauty in exploring the universe and have a tantalizing glimpse of how our planet, the solar system, the galaxy and the whole universe have evolved over billions of years. There are also many reasons why we must continue to study and research everything about the universe. Only by studying other stars and heavenly bodies can we fully understand how our Sun changes over time, how objects in the solar system move and how to keep track of them.
10 Awesome Modern Astronomical Discoveries
If not for astronomy, we would still believe the Earth is flat and we would still follow what religion says about the heavens and the Earth. Many people are fascinated by the discoveries and astronomy is one branch of science that gives us so much excitement and knowledge about our planet and other bodies in space. In the last 60 years, more and more images of planets, galaxies and other phenomenon in the universe have been presented to us. We know that we are just a very tiny speck in the universe, but when you see the pictures and read about the astronomical discoveries, it makes you think that everything in the observable universe could be connected. Let’s begin!
1. Discovery of Super Earth In A Habitable Zone
In 2012, astronomers announced the discovery of HD 40307g, a planet 7 times Earth’s mass, orbiting in a habitable zone (Goldilocks zone) around its host star. This is the zone where liquid water would remain liquid under atmospheric pressure just like on Earth. The planet was discovered and identified by scientists in the European Southern Observatories’ HARPS or High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher.
2. Dark Energy
It may sound sinister, but dark energy is a constant in the universe. Dark energy was identified using the Hubble theory that the universe is neither contracting nor static. In fact, the universe is expanding and this expansion is speeding up. This theory is supported by the measurement of distances travelled by supernova and other bodies in space. To account for this vast expansion, a hypothetical energy known as “Dark Energy” was proposed. Whether it is a scalar property of space, time or something dynamic, it is still a matter of debate amongst experts. Present astrophysicists have placed 74% of the energy in the universe in the “Dark Energy” category .
3. Dark Matter
Different from Dark Energy, Dark Matter is a type of matter that could explain gravitational effects within different galaxies. When astronomers were able to measure the orbital velocity of stars and the mass of galaxies, there were discrepancies between the calculated and expected results. With this, a new type of matter was classified and is now known as dark matter. It is matter that is not detected using any current measurement techniques involving electromagnetic radiation.
4. Discovery Of The Farthest Known Galaxy
If you visit the Hubble telescope website, you will see hundreds of pictures of stars, galaxies, etc. One of the best discoveries made by the Hubble Space Telescope was the discovery of MACS0647-JD, a galaxy that is 13.3 billion light years from planet Earth. This is the farthest galaxy ever observed. When we look back at intergalactic distances, it is also looking back in time. We are seeing this galaxy as it appeared when the universe was just 420 million years old.
5. The New Moons Of Pluto
It’s official, Pluto now has 5 known moons. Charon, the largest of Pluto’s moons was discovered in 1978. With measurements of 648 miles across, it’s almost as big as the planet itself. In 2005, the Hubble Space telescope discovered Nix and Hydra which range between 20-70 miles in diameter. In 2011 Hubble photographed and discovered P4 and P5. They are between 8-21 miles in diameter.
6. Peering Through The Eye Of A Black Hole
Like any large galaxy, galaxy M87 has a massive black hole in its center. The galaxy’s black hole is equivalent to more than 6 billion suns and shoots out a 5,000 light year long ionized stream. The Event Horizon Telescope project team stated that they used 4 different radio telescopes to trace the stream all the way to the black hole itself. Just imagine the numbers and measurements incolved in this discovery!
7. The Tail Of Mira A
In 2007, the GALEX or the Galaxy Evolution Explorer scanned Mira A, an old red giant star. The scan was part of ongoing research related to scanning the entire night sky using ultraviolet light. Astronomers were shocked to discover that there is a 13 light year long comet-like tail trailing behind the red giant star. The red star cuts through space at 291,000 miles an hour. Until this fascinating discovery, it was thought that stars could not have tails like comets.
8. H2O On The Moon
On October 9, 2009 NASA’s Lunar Crater Observing and Sensing Satellite found water in a cloud at the forever dark crater at the south pole of the moon. The LCROSS was a probe that was designed and made to impact the moon while a small satellite following behind measured the chemical makeup of the material that was ejected. After one year of research and data analysis, NASA reported that they found water ice on the floor of the crater that the probe impacted. Later, three other different spacecraft reported a thin film of water coating the soil surface in some areas.
In January 2005, Eris was discovered. The discovery sparked debate among many scientists regarding what the definition of a planet really was. Eris was thought to be the 1oth planet, but instead it was christened a new class of dwarf planet. The dwarf planet is beyond the orbit of Pluto and is said to be the same size. Eris in known to have one moon called Dysnomia. With this discovery, Eris and Dysnomia are the farthest known natural objects in our Solar System.
10. Earth From Saturn’s Orbit
Although this is not technically a discovery, it’s certainly a wonder to behold. This is a photograph of Earth taken by the Cassini aircraft from Saturn’s orbit. The photograph was taken on July 19, 2013. The pale blue speck is Earth. As the great Carl Sagan once said “Our whole lives and the human history is in that pale blue dot. All of our imagined self importance, our posturing and the illusion that we have some privileged position in the whole Universe. Everything is challenged by this speck of blue light. Earth is just one small grain in the whole universe”. Think about it: everyone you know is in that dot. Appreciate everything because that pale blue dot is the only home we have.
Isn’t astronomy great? Yes it sure is!