2012 was a great year for discoveries, here are some of the top scientific discoveries of 2012 !!!
17. Earth’s Exoplanet Twin
A rocky, roughly Earth-size exoplanet orbits Alpha Centauri B, one of the stars in the nearest stellar system to our own. Reported in October, the planet is just 4.4 light-years from Earth. But, with a year lasting 3.2 Earth-days, the planet is probably too close to its star to host life as we know it. A team using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher found the planet after detecting its small, gravitational tugs on Alpha Centauri B.
Scientists suspect that Alpha Centauri’s three stars might host a few more planets: Where there’s one rocky planet, there are usually more. But don’t plan on visiting the system any time soon. Though Alpha Centauri is a favored destination for proposed interstellar space missions, it’s still too far away to reach with today’s technology.
16. SpaceX Launches to the International Space Station
It was a very good year for the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, better known as SpaceX. After successfully launching and orbiting its Dragon spacecraft around the Earth in 2010 – the first time a private company has done so – SpaceX celebrated ever greater milestones in 2012. In May, it delivered Dragon to the International Space Station for the first time. A second mostly successful launch in October actually transferred cargo to the orbiting laboratory, proving that SpaceX was capable of bringing supplies and potentially U.S. astronauts to the ISS.
While it remains to be seen exactly what the achievements will mean in the long run, they have bolstered SpaceX’s reputation as the most successful company in the burgeoning private space sector. This could be good news for NASA, which will soon start relying on SpaceX to get to the ISS. Such schemes are part of SpaceX’s good business sense, but the company has longer term and far more ambitious goals. Their CEO, Elon Musk, has stated many times that he hopes to build a human colony on Mars and is even starting to test fully reusable rockets toward this end.
15. Life's New Chemical Code
Just like DNA, XNA is capable of storing genetic information and then evolving through natural selection. Unlike DNA, it can be carefully manipulated. For now, researchers hope it might be used for medical or industrial purposes. It will also be a useful tool for researchers studying the origins of life. And while both XNA and human understanding are still too rudimentary to synthesize a life form fundamentally unlike any yet known, it can now be imagined.
14. Quantum Teleportation Distance Record Broken
Over the summer, two teams of researchers, one from China and the other from Austria, broke a world record by teleporting quantum particles more than 50 miles through the open air. This little trick involves entangling two particles, like photons, so that they both have the exact same properties. Using a third particle, the characteristics of one of these photons are beamed to a distant location, creating a remote copy.
Scientists now think they will one day be able teleport particles to a satellite in space and then beam them back to any location on Earth. Such technology could allow spies to pass unbreakable codes back and forth and might one day form the backbone of a quantum internet. China plans to test this possibility with a dedicated quantum information satellite, to be launched in 2016, while other countries are racing to make sure they don’t fall too far behind on this important technology.
13. Genome Sequencing for Fetuses
After all, genetic tests for newborn babies are already routine. Millions of parents would almost undoubtedly want to scan their fetuses, too. The scans might pick up potentially fatal conditions early, saving lives and easing pain. The scans would also, however, detect more ambiguous medical signals, such as predispositions to disease, or information about traits like personality or physique. What would parents do with that information? What should they do? Is there a limit to how much genetic information parents want about their babies? And how much of that information should be shared with a child? None of these questions have clear answers, and they'll be debated in years to come.
12. Sugar Found in Space
11. New Planet Found in Our Solar System?
10. Nine-Planet System Discovered?
9. New-Species "Heaven" in Peru
A team of Mexican and Peruvian biologists found this "new heaven of unknown biodiversity" during a 2009-2011 expedition, according to a press statement.
8. Limbless Amphibians Discovered
7. Maya Mural Contradicts Doomsday
6. "Dramatic" Maya Temple Found
5. Giant Crocodile Breaks Size Record
4. Curiosity Lands on Mars
Since then, Curiosity has fascinated the public, beaming back amazing information about the rocks, regolith, and atmosphere of Mars. But most importantly, it has sent back pictures, pictures, and more pictures, transporting us Earth-bound humans to the Red Planet. The rover will continue on its 2.5-year trek up the slopes of Mount Sharp, searching for organic compounds and signs of habitability on Mars, past or present. The entire mission has been so successful that NASA recently announced a new rover built from leftover Curiosity parts that will be sent to Mars in 2020 (and that our readers think should be named "I Should Be on Titan").
3. "Lost World" in Antarctica
(See picture below: "'Yeti Crab' Discovered in Deep Pacific.")
A camera-equipped submersible robot filmed species such as barnacles, crabs, anemones, and even an octopus, all of which are mostly colorless and live in utter darkness at depths of 7,875 feet (2,400 meters), according to a January study.
2. Scientists Search for Prehistoric Life in Lake Vostok
After more than a decade of drilling, Russian scientists finally reached Lake Vostok,14-million-old Antarctic lake buried beneath the ice, in February. About the size of Lake Ontario, Vostok is the largest of some 300 lakes carved into the southern polar cap. The Russians broke through to the lake’s surface -- after drilling through 2.2 miles of ice -- just as the drilling season was coming to an end.
In October, a preliminary analysis of ice that had frozen to the drill bit revealed no evidence of microbial life in the pristine subglacial oasis, a disappointment to those who had been hoping for evidence of extremophiles living in icy darkness. But the lake itself could still harbor life, and two teams from the U.S. and the U.K. are currently in Antarctica preparing to drill through the ice and hoping to retrieve samples from Lake Vostok itself.