Some space science happens from space. Some of it happens from right here on Earth, and some of that is downright astounding. In 2016, an Earth-size planet, which scientists named Proxima-b, was discovered by the Pale Red Dot Project. It orbits a red dwarf star called Proxima Centauri, which is 4.25 light-years away from our sun – making it, believe it or not, the closest star to it. ‘If conditions are right, the planet is in an orbit that’s warm enough for liquid water to survive on its surface,’ National Geographic reports. Translation: Proxima-b could harbour life.
We’ve had our eyes – and telescopes, and other instruments – open to the heavens for millennia, looking for objects from far, far away (read: alien life forms). In 2017, we found what we were looking for – sort of. Now, it wasn’t a creature from another galaxy. But it was the first object formed in another star system to pass through ours, as far as we know. Discovered by astronomers in Hawaii and named ‘Oumuamua, it left our solar system as quickly as it entered, leaving more questions than it answered. Although scientists were able to determine that it was ‘a fragment of its parent body that was torn apart by the tidal forces of its host star,’ reports Universe Today.
A black hole
The biggest space news of the entire decade most assuredly came in 2019, when scientists released the first-ever image of that most mysterious of all universal phenomena, a black hole. It sits in the heart of elliptical galaxy Messier 87 some 50 million light-years away and, as National Geographic describes it, ‘devours anything that strays too near: stars, planets, gas and dust – not even light escapes the monster’s grasp once it crosses a threshold called the event horizon.’ Containing the mass of 6.5 million suns (!!), capturing an image of it required the collaboration of 200 scientists using observatories around the world, in a project called the Event Horizon Telescope.
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