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Top 10 Astronomy News Stories of 2018



Astronomers have made great progress this year in their quest to observe the universe. Here is an overview of the astronomy news in 2018.

It has been an exciting year for space missions. When launching against the inner solar system in an epic quest to touch the sun, another solar system left completely to touch interstellar space – a lot of 18 billion miles from home. Both will shed light on extreme and remote environments. At the same time, other tasks focused on the environment are more like home – working towards better understanding of the earth and planets like it.

In April, the TESS mission was launched to study nearby exoplanets, which increased the chances that astronomers would soon find more habitable homes. And at the end of November, NASA's Insight landers reached Mars in the first mission to study the planet's interior. It is especially exciting considering that two finds this year have increased the odds that the red planet may have been worth life: The first found the organic molecules in ancient rocks and the other discovered an underground lake.

While these missions highlight the potential for future discoveries, the year has also hosted a series of sad ending. We said goodbye to the beloved scientist Stephen Hawking ̵

1; who helped uncover many secrets in black holes – and the Kepler Space Telescope – that revealed thousands of alien worlds. Yes, it has been quite a year. Below are the 10 best stories from 2018.

LIGO: The gift that is about to give

  Illustration of black holes joining

Artist concept with two black holes on the way to merge.
LIGO / Caltech / MIT / Sonoma State (Aurore Simonnet)

In December, researchers identified four ghostly signals from distant pairs of black holes that swung towards each other and collided – raising the total number of gravity waves to 11 detections. The message was the largest batch of detections released at the same time, but an event was the most distant and most powerful black hole fusion ever discovered. It occurred 5 billion years ago when two large black holes were merged into an 80 solar mass, which released the energy corresponding to solar masses in the form of powerful gravity waves. Voyager 2 leaves the solar system

  Voyager 1

An artist's depiction of voyage 1 in deep space.
NASA-JPL

On December 5, Voyager 2 entered interstellar space – which made it the second probe in history to travel so far beyond the home after Voyager 1. Astronomers did not notice the event by the distance of the probe (a great deal 18 billion kilometers from home) but with a decline in the solar wind. The sun sends a steady breeze of charged particles far past Neptune, but eventually it gives the wind to the interstellar plasma that fills the galaxy. So, when the plasma detector on board Voyager 2 recorded a significant decrease in solar wind speed, the missionaries knew that the probe had officially entered interstellar space. At its current speed, Voyagers will face the Oort Cloud's inner edge – the icy shell of debris surrounding our solar system – in about 300 years.

Insight Lander Reach Mars

At the end of November, NASA's Mars Insight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) lands straight down on the Red Planet. It is NASA's eighth successful landing on Mars and the first dedicated geophysical mission.

  Mars Insight

A diagram of Mars Insight with its various instrument packages.
NASA / JPL-Caltech

Insight comes chronicle "Mars quakes" and other geological activity to answer multiple questions about the planet's interior. For example, scientists want to know how similar the planet's interior is to other rocky worlds. Soon the lander will drill a mole in the planet's surface one millimeter at a time. Then, after 30 or 40 days of drilling, Insight will sit quietly to take dedicated seismic measurements and assess our neighbor's business.

Astronomers Glimpse on the Black Hole Event Horizon

  hotspot near the event horizon

This visualization uses simulation data to show the gas annealing around our galaxy's central black hole.
ESO / Gravity Consortium / L. Calçada

During the use of the GRAVITY instrument on the Very Large Telescope Interferometer in Chile, astronomers discovered three bright flares from our galaxy's central supermassive black holes, Sagittarius A *. Each flare lasted between 30 and 90 minutes and raced around the black hole at 30% speed of light. As such, astronomers suspect that the spots originate from the puffy disc that slowly feeds the black hole. It is a discovery that enables them to perform accurate gravity tests in one of nature's most extreme environments.

Scientists "Set Foot" on an asteroid

In early October, Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) mission landed successfully on the small asteroid 162173 Ryugu. It was the first mission to explore the surface of an asteroid in place, crossing the small rock for three days and two nights to better assess the early days of solar system formation.

  Ryugu

The asteroid's jumbled surface Ryugu captured by MASCOT just a few meters above its surface.
MASCOT / DLR / JAXA

But it was not the only asteroid researchers explored this year. A month later, NASA's Osiris-REX spacecraft arrived at Bennu and quickly revealed that water once soaked its stones. Osiris-REX will orbit around Bennu on December 31 this year – ultimately catching a material site to return to Earth in 2023.

A space probe is launched to "touch the sun"

<img class = "wp- image-255485644 "src =" https://s22380.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/Parker-Solar-Probe-launch-559px-314×360.jpg "alt =" Parker Solar Probe Launches [19659034] NASA's Parker Solar Probe was launched on August 12, 2018.
NASA / Bill Ingalls

At the end of the summer, Parker Solar Probe from Cape Canaveral was launched on a mission that unlocks a number of secrets about our beloved host star, who will wear an instrument suit closer to the sun than ever before – immerse in the lower sun corona to understand the sun's wind and acceleration and the dynamics of the coronal magnetic field, it will not be easy, but the violent spacecraft will have to fight against the intense wind and sizzling heat of the sun. to open open a new window on solar physics.

The Potential for the Increase of March Life

Two exciting discoveries this year increased the odds that the red planet once contained the necessary ingredients for life. Firstly, the rover's rover discovered organic molecules in ancient rocks. While these molecules do not need to be made of life, make life and use some of them (such as sugars and amino acids). Then, a second instrument discovered evidence of today's liquid water on Mars – or more specifically a salt subterranean lake. Both are promising thoughts.

  Proof of buried lake on Mars

Marsar's orbiter used radar signals bounced through underground ice layers to find evidence of a pond of water buried under the southern polar slope.
Context map: NASA / Viking; THEMIS background: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Arizona State University; MARSIS data: ESA / NASA / JPL / ASI / Univ. R. Orosei et al. 2018

Gaia maps the Milky Way

Gaia space satellite released its second set of data at the end of April, including precise parallaxes (and thus distance) for more than 1.3 billion stars and positions and brightnesses of nearly 1.7 billion stars in total . The second number represents just over 1% of all stars in our galaxy, providing a detailed map of our local neighborhood.

  Gaias map of 1.7 billion stars in the Milky Way and beyond

A graphic representation of Gaia's all-sky data on the Milky Way and neighboring galaxies, based on measurements of nearly 1.7 billion stars.
Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC) / A. Moitinho / AF Silva / M. Barros / C. Barata (Univ., Lisbon, Portugal) / H. Savietto (Fork Research, Portugal)

But that are not all. Gaia has also observed about 14,000 known solar system objects, most of them asteroids and more than 500,000 quasars. The final data release is scheduled for 2022.

An Exoplanet Mission Ends, Another Begins

It has been an exciting year for exoplanet research. On April 18, Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on a quest to look for exoplanets around bright stars. The mission began to observe in time: On October 30, the Kepler mission went out of fuel, completing a nine-year mission that discovered more than 2,600 planets along with thousands more candidate worlds. It is safe to say that Kepler triggered a brand new research area that TESS will continue, which can lead to the discovery of alien life one day.

  Pi Mensae Light Curve

TESS finds its first exoplanet around the sun-like star Pi Mensae.
Huang et al. / arXiv.org

Stephen Hawking, known physicist, passes away

On the morning of March 14, 2018, Professor Stephen Hawking passed away at the age of 76. He had defied expectations and lived decades longer than expected after his 1963 diagnosis with Lou Gehrig's disease, building a brilliant physics career. He is perhaps best known for postulating that black holes are really not black but radiate a small amount of heat and ultimately evaporate. But he was also a beloved audience – partly thanks to his book A short history of time which sold 10 million copies in more than 40 languages, and partly due to its evil humor. ! The function (f, b, e, v, n, t, s) {if (f.fbq) return, n = f.fbq = function () {n.callMethod?
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