First Photo of a Black Hole – The first picture of a black hole shows a monster hole 55 million light-years from Earth in the neighbouring galaxy M87. Nicknamed Pōwehi by some members of the team (it’s pronounced poe-vay-hee, a word from Hawaiian mythology meaning “embellished dark source of unending creation”), the object is 6.5 billion times as massive as the sun and has a diameter of 24 billion miles. Its mass and powerful gravity cast a shadow against the bright, hot gas swirling around it, creating a distinctive donut shape. The image emerged from two years of computer analysis of observations from a network of radio antennas called the Event Horizon Telescope. In 2018, Columbia University researchers detected a dozen black holes surrounding the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. This new evidence supports the theory that the supermassive black hole, called Sagittarius A*, is actually surrounded by roughly 10,000 other isolated black holes plus as many as 500 black holes paired with stars, according to Science Daily.
Most Remote Planets – Spitzer was the final of NASA’s four Great Observatories to reach space. In 2010, Spitzer helped scientists detect one of the most remote planets ever discovered, located about 13,000 light-years away from Earth. Most previously known exoplanets lie within about 1,000 light years of Earth. Even though scientists thought for a long time that they must exist, it was only in 1992 that the first exoplanet was discovered. And further work to look for other ones has turned up some exciting results more recently too. Earlier in 2015, scientists discovered the exoplanet Kepler-452b, which was described as ‘earth’s cousin’ because of its close similarities to our planet. Space experts say Exoplanets are really important because they raise the possibility that other life could exist in other solar solar systems. In late January 2018, a team of scientists led by Xinyu Dai claimed to have discovered a collection of about 2,000 rogue planets in the quasar microlens RX J1131-1231, which is 3.8 billion light-years distant. The bodies range in mass from that of the Moon to several Jupiter masses.
Access to Mars – In 1976, Nasa’s Viking mission became the first successful spacecraft to land on Mars. It returned amazing colour pictures, soil samples and extensive scientific information about the planet. The craft also carried out an experiment which, for the first time, suggested that life might be possible on Mars. Exploration on Mars has continued with the Curiosity Rover and more recently the announcement that liquid water was found on the red planet’s surface. Scientists say this raises the possibility that life could exist on the planet. In June 2018, NASA announced that the Curiosity rover found organic material preserved in rocks on Mars and methane in the planet’s atmosphere. While not necessarily indicative of life itself, the findings suggest the planet could have supported ancient life, according to NASA. Then, in late November, the InSight Mars lander arrived to dig deeper into the Red Planet to gather more data.
Death of a Zombie Star – Scientists already have a strong understanding of what happens when a star dies and how supernovas work, but in 2018, astronomers discovered that iPTF14hls appears to have died and come back to life multiple times. What’s going on with this so-called zombie star? Normally, when a star dies, it emits a bright light for a short period of time while imploding during a supernova event. But, according to Space.com, even though iPTF14hls seemed like it died about 60 years ago, it now appears to be pulsing, with a brighter-than-normal supernova.