Whoever said one cannot reach for the stars is clearly mistaken.
This year has produced some of the most fascinating and most groundbreaking space discoveries mankind has ever found. For the geeks in all of us, anything associated with the vast and immense outer space can be an endless source of wonder and curiosity.
As the year is about to end, Tech Times has listed down the ultimate top 10 space events and breakthroughs this 2015.
1. Pluto's Icy Heart
The New Horizons Pluto flyby on July 14 has marked significant change in how scientists perceive Pluto. Once thought as inactive, the icy dwarf planet is actually buzzing with strange activity. The dwarf planet's surface is marked with strange orange organic material, as well as freshly surfaced nitrogen-ice sheets. The decade-long journey to this dwarf planet was well worth the wait, because the treasure trove of scientific data that astronomers acquired was strange and truly new.
2. Water On Mars
It may seem like the stuff that a Doctor Who episode is made of, but it sure is an incredible discovery. On Sept. 28, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) project revealed that liquid water actually flows on the present-day red planet. Scientists have linked the possible existence of liquid water on the planet to the presence of water-bearing salts marked by recurring slope lineae (RSL). The discovery could very well pave the way for possible human colonization on Mars, or the existence of ancient life forms in the planets a long time ago.
After months of hibernation, the European Space Agency's comet lander Philae finally woke up. Philae used Rosetta as a relay and transmitted its first "Hello" after several months. The comet lander contained data about the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. By making a video, scientists even recreated the probe's historic landing on the comet.
4. Kepler-452b, Earth's Bigger And Older Cousin
On July 23, NASA revealed the discovery of a planet that is nearly the size of Earth but is 60 percent larger in diameter than our planet. Kepler-452b is the smallest known planet to orbit the habitable zone of a G2-type star. Scientists believe that the discovery of this super-Earth-like planet is one step toward finding an Earth 2.0.
4. A Strange Kind Of Rock On The Moon
The Yutu rover, a Chinese lunar rover, has discovered a new kind of rock on the surface of the moon. This suggests that our cosmic companion has a more diverse makeup than what scientists previously thought.
5. Rare Blood Supermoon
After 33 years, a rare kind of solar eclipse took place in the heavenly skies on Sept. 27. The moon was at its fullest and the closest to Earth, making it a supermoon. On top of that, this magnificent moon went through a lunar eclipse, causing its tint to turn blood-orange. The next rare blood supermoon is predicted to occur in 2033.
6. Dwarf Planet Ceres
The bright spots on planet Ceres are spectacular. Scientists believe these bright spots are most likely to be made of salt. Thanks to NASA's Dawn spacecraft, scientists finally know what those mysterious spots are. The spacecraft had orbited the dwarf planet since March.
7. Red Romaine Lettuce In The ISS
The Veggie experiment carried out onboard the International Space Station (ISS) was a tasty success. Astronauts ate red romaine lettuce grown in space for the first time in history, and they even added balsamic vinegar and olive oil to add to the flavor. Scientists said the event is an important step towards future manned missions to Mars.
8. Gamma Rays Older Than Earth
In April, gamma rays emerged from a galaxy known as a blazar. This galaxy is called PKS 1441+25. Astrophysicists said it took 7.6 billion years for the blazar's light to reach the Earth, making the gamma rays half the age of the universe and way older than our planet.
9. The Elusive Planet X
For decades, astronomers have been on the lookout for a celestial, heavenly body they call Planet X. This planet strongly influences the orbits of objects surrounding it. Early this December, scientists published two papers that theorize the possible discovery of this elusive planet, but the scientific community is still skeptical.
10. Perseid Meteor Shower
Lastly, the nightsky is surely not without beauty. Throughout much of the northern hemisphere, the nightsky was dazzled with the Perseid Meteor Shower, which often peaks during Aug. 12 to 13.
What You Should Expect In 2016
Be ready for next year. On March 9, a total solar eclipse will occur in Indonesia and the Pacific Ocean. A partial eclipse will be visible in Australia and Southeast Asia.
NASA's Juno spacecraft is also expected to arrive at Jupiter on July 4 after travelling for five years.