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The top 10 physics stories of 2020

The top 10 physics stories of 2020

Let’s admit it: It has been a very difficult year for our neck in the solar system. But it was an amazing year for scientists who have studied far beyond the universe. From a colossal blast to mysterious burps that have been decoded, here are some of the most important stories in physics in 2020.

10. Boom!

(Image credit: X-ray: Chandra: NASA / CXC / NRL / S. Giacintucci, et al., XMM-Newton: ESA / XMM-Newton; Radio: NCRA / TIFR / GMRT; Infrared: 2MASS / UMass / IPAC- California Institute of Technology / NASA / NSF)

What would have been the most powerful explosion known in the universe was discovered in 2016 – but it actually happened more than 390 million years ago. As the first four-legged creatures crawled onto Earth, a supermassive black hole in Ophiuchus’ group released a jet that blew a giant hole in the surrounding gas. In 2020, astronomers review the old data and I realized how powerful this explosion was: Five times 10 ^ 54 joules of energy. For perspective, that’s enough energy to tear apart all of the 300 billion stars in the Milky Way and hundreds of other galaxies.

9. I can see my solar system from here

This image shows the trajectories of 40,000 stars within 326 light-years of our solar system over the next 400,000 years based on measurements and projections from the European Space Agency's Gaia spacecraft.

(Image source: ESA / Gaia / DPAC; CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO. Acknowledgments: A. Brown, S. Jordan, T. Roegiers, X. Luri, E. Masana, T. Prusti and A. Moitinho.)

If you want to navigate the stars, you will need a map. And that Exactly what is the ESA Jaya Space Observatory Created with data about more than 1.8 billion cosmic objects. The range includes near and far stars, asteroids, comets, and more. Want to know the location, speed, spectrum and more than 0.5% of the population of our galaxy? You are lucky. Over 1,600 papers with Gaia data have already been published, and astronomers will be keen to mine the database for years to come. Here’s the best part: there’s more data to come.

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8. Loss of a legend

Physicist Freeman J. Dyson at the United Nations Church Center in New York on March 22, 2000.

(Image Source: Jon Naso / NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

In 2020, the world It lost one of its most distinguished and famous membersFreeman Dyson. A man of unlimited imagination, he is perhaps best known in popular science circles for his concept of the Dyson field. (He didn’t name it by his name; it came later.) The Dyson sphere is a hypothetical gigantic structure that completely surrounds the star to harvest 100% of its solar energy – exactly the energy a highly advanced civilization would need. So far, astronomers haven’t discovered any Dyson balls in our galaxy or any other balls, but Freeman’s dream still lives on.

7. We found life on Venus, and then we did not find it

Simulation of the surface of Venus with a northern hemisphere view

(Photo credit: NASA / JPL)

It was too good to believe: claims of strong evidence for life at the cloud tops of Venus, another place of the world. The logic was based on phosphine, a strange (and odorless) chemical that is emitted to Earth by anaerobic bacteria. To get the same amount of phosphine into the atmosphere as alleged, the scientists suggested that Venus would need a large number of airborne microbes. Alas, Additional analysis reduced the detected amount of the smelly items (To levels considered barely noteworthy, let alone a sign of life), and in some analyzes, I removed it altogether as just another buzzing sign. Don’t worry, Strange Life: If you’re there, we’ll keep looking.

6. Best New Game of 2020: FRBs

Illustration of a magnetic star - the highly magnetized corpse of a collapsing star - exploding with energy.  Scientists think they may be responsible for Fast Radio Bursts (FRB).

(Image credit: McGill University Graphic Design Team)

Everyone loves FRB, right? The source of these enigmatic and energetic signals has been a disturbing mystery to astronomers for more than a decade. FRBs are fast, high-powered wireless signals with hopping frequencies that come from all over the sky, making it difficult to pinpoint their source. But finally, in 2020, Astronomers were lucky: They found the source of FRB in our cosmic backyard. Follow-up observations revealed the culprit: a strange star known as a magnetic star (a super-magnetized dead star core). Apparently, magnetic stars sometimes burp out a huge amount of pent-up energy, which to observers on Earth appears to be a rapid burst of radio emissions.

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5. Mars is wet after all

An artist's drawing of Mars covered in water, as it may have been about 4 billion years ago.

(Photo credit: NASA / GSFC)

Mars has liquid water. No, it is too dry. No waiting; Sometimes it has water. No, no, it’s okay. The Red Planet has been provoking astronomers for decades about the vital question of whether it is home to any liquid water at all. Astronomers care because, where water is found, there is a possible home for life. Earlier this year, astronomers claimed that there isn’t just one, however Four lakes of liquid water on Mars. The catch? It’s incredibly salty – more like salty sludge than something to dip into – and buried under a mile of frozen carbon dioxide in the Antarctic mantle. However, not everyone is convinced of it, so don’t pack the Martian swimwear yet.

4. Take it home

Two photos taken by NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft show that the sampling arm is touching the surface of asteroid Bennu.

(Photo credit: NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona)

2020 was definitely the year of the solar system. Three autonomous spacecraft successfully obtained samples and sent them back to Earth. NASA launched a program Osiris Rex Mission to the asteroid Bennu, which gathered so much material that its sample container leaked. Hayabusa2’s Japanese assignment received a poke-in Ryugu asteroid The material fell safely to the ground. The Chinese landing craft Chang’e 5 went on a mission to the moon, Was able to return a sample to Earth before the probe malfunctioned.

3. That’s a big black hole!

This image shows the gravitational waves produced during the largest black hole collision ever detected.

(Image credit: N. Fischer, H. Pfeiffer, A. Buonanno, and SXS Collaboration)

Astronomers have used gravitational waves (ripples in the fabric of space-time) to observe many of the collisions of black holes that are not yet worth publishing. But in 2020, astronomers It announced the discovery of the largest collision so far: A giant merger of a black hole of mass 85 solar masses and a black hole of mass 66 solar masses. After merging, the resulting black hole flipped the scales 142 times the mass of the Sun. (Roughly nine suns have been converted from mass to pure energy.) In other news about black holes, the Pandora’s box in the universe has been the subject of Nobel Prize in Physics for this year.

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2. Does it heat up in this superconductor?

Currently, extreme cold is required to achieve superconductivity, as shown in this image of a magnet floating over a superconductor cooled with liquid nitrogen.

(Photo credit: University of Rochester / J. Adam Finster)

Ultra clear superconductors. Due to the weirdness of quantum mechanics, under very special conditions, electrons can bond, with the pairs moving together without losing energy. This means a game-changing technology where electricity can flow forever without resistance. Unfortunately, to make superconductors work, the physicists had to make everything very cold. But in 2020, Researchers announced the discovery of a superconductor at nearly room temperature, Only 59 ° F (15 ° C). The catch? You need to recreate the pressures in the center of the Earth.

1. Take this, COVID-19

This is the 3D atomic scale map or molecular structure of SARS-2-CoV protein

(Photo credit: Jason McClellan / The University of Texas at Austin)

The new Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has devastated humanity, reached epidemic levels in just two months and washed the world. But we are fighting with one of our strongest weapons: vaccines. Current vaccines target a very specific part of the virus, a “spiky” protein that it uses to invade our cells. One of the first steps in the war against COVID was to identify and map this protein, which researchers have done It was completed earlier this year, using a physics-based technology called cryogenic electron microscopy. With this map, drug makers can target this feature of the virus to mimic vaccines, giving our immune systems a chance to fight back.