Well despite eejit Trump and his potentially thermonuclear war causing twitter habits, mankind has survived another year. So let’s talk about some of the discoveries that have happened in the world of physics and astronomy that caught my eye this year:
- GW170817: In October, for the first time a gravitational wave was detected along with a light detection from its source. This was groundbreaking in many ways: it was the first detection of a kilonova; provides evidence for the theory that merging neutron stars is the birth place for heavier elements whose origins were previously unknown; and many other reasons that make this discovery of great scientific importance which I discuss here. I even got to here first had about this discovery by staff at the University of Leicester who were involved.
- Exoplanets: There have been numerous discoveries in the field of exoplanets this year. For example the red dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 was announced in February to have 7 planets orbiting around it. Again not only was this a big discovery, staff at the University of Leicester were involved including Dr Burleigh who also was involved in the discovery of the exoplanet NGTS-1b this year. I talk more about TRAPPIST-1 here, and NGTS-1b here. Another announcement that I found interesting was in June when NASA released data from the space telescope Kepler which identified 219 new planet candidates, 10 of which are near-Earth sized and in the habitable zone. To keep up to date with the constant stream of discoveries thanks to Kepler check out this website.
- White Dwarf Pulsar: In February scientists at the University of Warwick announced their discovery of a white dwarf pulsar. Astronomers have been looking for this type of star for over half a century, and this year Warwick announce that it had finally been found. The star rotates every two minutes and has a magnetic field 10,000 greater than anything that can be producing in a lab. Read more about the discovery here.
- Zombie star: In November astronomers discovered a star that has gone supernova twice in the last sixty years. This discovery has baffled scientists and brought into question current theories on super nova. I think these types of discoveries can be some of the most exciting since they bring everything we know about a suject into question. Here a video that talks more about this discovery:
To see what I thought about some of the greatest discoveries of 2016 click here. I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and you all have a happy new year!
“If you haven’t found something strange during the day, it hasn’t been much of a day.”
-John Archibald Wheeler.