As 2011 becomes “the past”, we look to 2012 with hope and anticipation, and more new discoveries, possibly topping the many amazing ones of the year just ended. Here are some that I missed as they happened but have found through end of year stories recently posted.
A diamond is forever – or so the jewelry stores would like us to believe. It seems, however, that science now backs up that statement with the discovery of a “diamond planet”. A once massive star has been transformed into a solid diamond mass, five times larger than Earth. This gem of a discovery is actually part of a binary star system some 4000 light years from earth. Scientists noticed that the pulses of energy from the star known as J1719-1438 were regularly being disturbed. This led them to find the diamond planet which was orbiting the star. The lighter elements had been stripped away leaving nothing but carbon, which, under intense pressure, will form a diamond. Scientists believe this diamond planet is now stable and will not likely change for billions of years. This video shows the telescope used to detect the pulsars and how the “diamond planet” orbiting it was detected.
In addition to “planets in the sky, with diamonds”, scientists were able to discover a planet in its infancy. This is the youngest known planet known to exist, and has been named Lk Ca 15 b and is “only” 450 light years from earth. (Do you know how far a light year is?)This future Jupiter-sized planet is still forming and the image is an artist’s interpretation of the new planet building itself out of dust and gas. (from Nasablueshift, CC license)According to UK’s Daily Mail, Adam Kraus used the telescopes on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, to discover the youngest planet known to exist.
But don’t go thinking that everything being discovered is “way out there”. There were many new finds right here on planet earth. In the world of archaeology it was big news that as many as 17 pyramids, more than 1,000 tombs and 3,000 settlements were uncovered in Egypt using infrared technology. Infrared images, which were taken by satellites orbiting 700 kilometers (435 miles) above the Earth, revealed the structures hidden below ground. The discoveries were announced in May by the BBC who funded the research prior to airing the broadcast. You can watch the amazing story in this video.
Planet Earth is home to perhaps thousands of species yet undiscovered and immense oceans largely unexplored. We exist in a vast universe on whose door we have just begun to faintly tap. What wonders await us in the coming year, in the coming decade, in the coming century? Which of our students around the world will take on the challenge of new discoveries in archaeology, biology, astronomy, paleontology, physics, and more? Let’s open our eyes to the wonders surrounding us and our minds to what may lie ahead. Let's learn at least one new thing about our amazing planet each day and work to protect what is here. Wishing all of our friends around the globe a year filled with wonder, peace, and joy…Happy New Year!
Click the image below to view the slide show (featured on the Huffington Post site) of our human family welcoming in the new year.