FIRST SPACE-TIME RIPPLES DETECTED
A hundred years after Einstein predicted their existence, faint ripples in the fabric
of the cosmos finally made their debut
. Called gravitational waves, these ripples are created by some of the most violent events in the universe. Despite their extreme origins, gravitational waves remained elusive for so long because their effects on the observable universe are very small.
But with the help of highly sensitive detectors in Louisiana and Washington State, scientists at last managed to sense gravitational waves passing through Earth in February. Even better, the labs detected a second round of ripples a few months later, confirming that the signal was no fluke. Astronomers are overjoyed at the achievement, because gravitational waves can act as a new way of seeing otherwise invisible objects in the universe, such as directly measuring the properties of enigmatic black holes.
DINOSAUR TAIL TRAPPED IN AMBER
It came dangerously close to becoming jewelry, but a small lump
of amber found at a market in Burma luckily landed in the hands of paleontologists
, who announced in December that it contained the first known piece of a dinosaur’s tail. Dating back 99 million years, the tail was originally mistaken as a bit of plant material. But closer inspection showed that it was actually bone and soft tissue covered with delicate feathers. Careful analysis revealed that the tail once belonged to a young coelurosaur, a dinosaur family that includes tyrannosaurs and modern birds.
POSSIBLY HABITABLE PLANET NEXT DOOR
Astronomers unveiled evidence for a world orbiting the closest star to the sun. At just 4.24 light-years away, Proxima Centauri has long fascinated astronomers and fiction writers alike. The newfound planet, dubbed Proxima b, is about as massive as Earth, and it orbits near enough to its small, red star for water to stay liquid on its surface. While it may be a while until we have the technology to properly probe Proxima b for signs of life, simply knowing it exists is a boon
天文学家公布了离太阳最近的恒星的一个卫星的相关信息。比邻星（Proxima Centauri）只有4.24光年远，一直吸引着天文学家和科幻小说家。这颗新发现的行星被命名为Proxima b，大小与地球相近，绕行轨道离小的红色恒星足够近能使水在其表面呈液态存在。虽然我们还需要些时间才能拥有先进技术探测到Proxima b星球上是否有生命迹象，但是仅仅知道它的存在对天体生物学家来说就已经是一个重大发现了。
TREASURE TROVES OF ANCIENT HUMAN FOOTPRINTS
Tanzania has been an invaluable source of information about the earliest days of our existence, yielding bones, tools, and other trappings from multiple species of human relatives. In October, scientists were dancing with joy when hundreds of ancient human footprints were unveiled at a site there known as Engare Sero. Dated somewhere between 5,000 and 19,000 years old, these prints show signs of early humans jogging and traveling in distinct groups near a towering volcano.
GIANT MARINE CROCODILE UNVEILED
In January, scientists stunned
the world with news that the largest marine crocodile ever found had been unearthed in an African desert. Based on a fossil skull and other bones discovered in Tunisia, it seems the fantastic beast could grow to be more than 30 feet long and weighed around three tons. Dubbed Machimosaurus rex, the 120-million-year-old animal offers crucial clues to a possible mass extinction event at the end of the Jurassic period, about 145 million years ago.
NASA SPACECRAFT ARRIVES AT JUPITER
It only took five years and 1.7 billion miles, but in July NASA’s Juno spacecraft completed a daredevil maneuver
to get into orbit around the largest planet in our solar system. Launched in August 2011, Juno is the first human-made object to orbit Jupiter since the end of the Galileo mission in 2003. The solar-powered spacecraft is designed to study the giant planet’s structure and intense magnetic field.
But first, Juno had to survive its long cruise through space and then a harrowing
trip through the planet’s punishing radiation belts. On July 4, the pinwheel-like spacecraft began spinning faster, tumbling into position for a successful orbit. In the following weeks, it sent back stunning new images and fresh reams of data.