The year 2020 was an incredibly tough and bleak year for many people around the world. However it was not all doom and gloom, there were many fantastic space breakthroughs in medicine, science and astronomy.
Let’s focus on the top 7 fantastic space discoveries and breakthroughs of 2020.
February 2020: The first results of NASA’s Insight Mar Lander were published, revealing hundreds of Marsquakes had been detected.
The probe collects data from deep inside the red planet using very sensitive monitors, revealing the internal structure of Mars.
May 2020: Elon Musks SpaceX made history by successfully launching the worlds first commercially crewed space flight.
The mission proved that the reusable SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule could carry humans into Earth’s orbit so they could dock with the International Space Station.
June 2020: NASA and ESA Solar Orbiter spacecraft (an international cooperative program) captured the highest resolution images ever filmed of our Sun.
Not only can the Solar Orbiter capture high resolution images of the surface of the Sun, it can also image the heliosphere that extends out to surround the entire Solar System.
September 2020: A giant Jupiter sized planet, WD 1856B, was spotted orbiting a white dwarf star. This is the first planet every discovered orbiting a white dwarf star.
The planet is so close to the star that it completes an orbit every 1.4 days. Mystifying astronomers, it should not have survived the stars formation at that distance.
September 2020: Scientists announced phosphine gas had been detected in the atmosphere of Venus.
Phosphine gas is commonly associated with the presence of life, and to date, there is no known other source of the gas. This could mean Venus has microbial life, warranting further investigation.
October 2020: NASA announced its Osiris Rex space probe had successfully collected samples from the Bennu asteroid.
The sample has been secured and will be returned to Earth via parachute in 2023 for analysis. The spacecraft will then continue on for other exploration.
December 2020: The Japanese spacecraft HAYABUSA 2 successfully completed its mission of returning a sample of another near-Earth asteroid, Ryugu.
The sample was dropped to Earth in outback Australia, before being collected and flown back to Japan.
These are just some of the incredible space discoveries and space breakthroughs of 2020, which were carried out despite a global pandemic.
Let’s hope 2021 brings better times for the people of Earth and opens new horizons of exploration in our Solar System and beyond.