Strange Radio Waves, The Accident Near Milky Way, Percy’s Wonders — List Of Most Interesting Science News Of 2021

New Delhi: The year 2021 was a marvelous year for groundbreaking scientific research and a lot of important work was completed in the field of science, especially space exploration, astronomy, and biological research. The year was all about news such as the race for space tourism heating up to several commitments being made at the climate change conference in Glasgow.
Following is the list of the most interesting science news and research work completed in 2021:

1. Launch Of The Most Powerful Space Observatory Ever Built 

The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the most powerful space observatory ever built, is not only the biggest science news of the year, but also one of the biggest news in several years. After years of wait, the JWST, which is an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, blasted off into space on Christmas day. JWST, also called Webb, is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope will unravel the secrets of the universe, and look to the earliest stars and galaxies.
James Webb Space Telescope (Photo: NASA)

2. Einstein’s Theory Of General Relativity Faced Its Toughest Test Yet

Researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) helped conduct a 16-year long experiment to challenge Einstein’s theory of general relativity, by looking to the stars. A pair of extreme stars called pulsars were observed through seven radio telescopes across the globe, as part of the study. The scientists used their observations to challenge Einstein’s most famous theory, which states that gravity is a curvature or distortion of space-time, and that gravity affects space-time.
The study revealed new relativistic effects which have been observed for the first time.
Representational image of an abstract gravity wave background (Photo: Getty)

3. Sun In A State Of Unrest

This year, there were several instances of powerful bursts of radiation, or solar flares, erupting from the Sun’s surface.
In early November, a strong G3 class geomagnetic storm occurred, which was triggered by the solar outbursts. This resulted in auroras in Earth’s lower latitudes.
In late October, a sunspot unleashed an X1 class solar flare, creating a massive tsunami of plasma which moved across the entire solar disk. Plasma and magnetised particles exploded the sunspot the same day, and resulted in a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME).
The Sun’s state of unrest in 2021 is surprising because the star had a weaker solar cycle in the last decade, compared to the decade prior, according to a study by Indian scientists. This resulted in weaker solar storms or CMEs during solar cycle 24, which lasted from 2008 to 2019. Also, the Sun was the weakest in 2019.
In a new study, Indian astronomers found that the changing structure of the magnetic field on the Sun’s surface determines whether the Sun emits a solar flare or a CME, understanding which is believed to be useful in improving solar weather predictions.
Sun with solar flares
Sun with solar flares (Photo: NASA)

4. Jeff Bezos’ Aerospace Firm Blue Origin Lost Case Against NASA

Blue Origin had filed a lawsuit against NASA in August over a $2.9 billion lunar lander contract awarded by NASA to Elon Musk’s SpaceX for the upcoming Artemis Mission. In November, the US Court of Federal Claims ruled against Blue Origin. NASA, in a statement, said that work with SpaceX would be resumed “as soon as possible”. 

5. Space Tourism Race Heats Up

The year 2021 was an extremely important one for space tourism. A total of seven space tourism missions were completed. These included the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission, which is the world’s first all-civilian mission to orbit, and the Soyuz MS-20 mission, which marked the first self-funded space tourism mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in a decade.
William Shatner, Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, became the oldest man to go to space in October.
Most interestingly, the first feature film was shot in space this year. A Russian film crew stayed aboard the ISS for 12 days to shoot parts of a film called ‘Vyozov’, meaning ‘The Challenge’.

Inspiration4 Crew In Space (Photo: Twitter/@inspiration4x)

6. Strange Radio Waves Emitted From Galactic Centre

In October, astronomers discovered strange radio signals coming from the direction of the Milky Way Galaxy’s centre. The new radio waves detected did not match any of the previously known patterns.
One of the researchers said that the most unusual thing about the new signal is its “very high polarisation”, which means the light oscillates in only one direction, but that direction rotates with time. 

The astronomers believe these unusual signals could suggest a new class of stellar object.

Milky Way Galaxy
Milky Way Galaxy (Photo: NASA)

7. Commercial Space Station Plans Announced

In October, Blue Origin and Sierra Space announced their plans for a commercially developed, owned, and operated space station to be built in low Earth orbit. Blue Origin termed the space station as “Orbital Reef” and claimed it will house up to 10 people by the second half of the decade.
Aerospace firm Nanoracks will also be developing its own commercial space station, which it calls “Starlab”, and Northrop Grumman is yet to name its space hub. NASA awarded contracts worth millions to the three private firms.
Orbital Reef (Twitter/@OrbitalReef)


8. Commitments Made At COP26 In Glasgow, Scotland

The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly referred to as COP26, was held in Glasgow, Scotland in the United Kingdom from October 31 to November 12. Several commitments were made by the participating countries, including India. COP26 concluded with 197 countries agreeing to a new climate deal: the Glasgow Climate Pact, to keep 1.5 degrees Celsius alive and finalise the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Countries made collective commitments to curb methane emissions, align the finance sector with net-zero by 2050, to halt and reverse deforestation, ditch the internal combustion engine, accelerate the phase-out of coal, and end international financing for fossil fuels, to name a few.

United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (Photo: Getty)

In September, scientists from the Washington University in St. Louis found new evidence which supports the idea that America’s first civilisation was made up of “sophisticated engineers.” The evidence suggests that America’s early indigenous people or Native Americans were highly skilled engineers capable of building massive earthen structures in a few months, and sometimes, even weeks. One of the researchers claimed that these early earthworks have held together for more than 3000 years with no failure or major erosion.

One example is the Poverty Point World Heritage Site in Louisiana, US, which consists of 72-foot-tall earthen mounds and ridges constructed by hunter-gatherers around 3,400 years ago.

In 2020, scientists announced the discovery of a strange object that they had found by accident. This year, they found more about the object, which is a ‘brown dwarf’ nicknamed ‘The Accident’. The Accident, as it was found by sheer luckis unique because it has no resemblance to the other brown dwarfs (over 2,000 of them) discovered so far in the Milky Way Galaxy.

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