With every passing year the world around us grows, and our understanding of its history widens. In 2014, this included everything from a probe landing on a comet to the detection of ancient monuments underneath Stonehenge’s Salisbury plain. Here are some of the definitive scientific discoveries of the year, just in case you missed them.
ESA Probe Lands On Comet
On November 12th, the Philae lander launched by The European Space Agency (ESA) came to rest on the comet known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, ten years after leaving Earth for its mission. Even though the lander went into hibernation in an unknown shadowed area, it is still collecting information and has sent back a precious few pictures via the orbiting Rosetta spacecraft’s camera, OSIRIS. Along with the images, we have learned that the comet contains carbon, one of the basic building blocks for life on Earth.
Archaeologists Uncover Greece’s Largest Burial Tomb
Though the archeological dig began on Amphipolis, Greece’s Hill of Kasta in 2012, this past summer archaeologists uncovered the massive entrance of Greece’s largest known burial tomb, flanked by massive sphinxes and containing three marble-walled chambers. The first chamber is paved in marble, and the second houses a mosaic of the god Pluto abducting Persephone. Work is ongoing, but at this point the ancient structure is thought to date back to the fourth century BC – when Greece was ruled by the Macedonians.
Mars Rover Discovers Methane
The Mars rover Curiosity has been roving the red planet for two and a half years now, and we’ve discovered many things from it, including bursts of methane gas in its atmosphere. Coupling this with the knowledge that Mars possesses carbon molecules (which we found by drilling into a rock formation), researchers say that this is the first evidence of organics on the planet’s surface – though it is not proof of life.
Stonehenge Is Just One Part Of Prehistoric Structures In England
When investigators started using ground-penetrating radar around England’s famous megalith in September, we doubt that they expected to find such an impressive trove of underground structures: chapels, pits, burial mounds, and a huge monument consisting of over 50 giant stones. No longer is Stonehenge thought to be a standalone site; rather, it’s the very tip of a sprawling area that goes on underground for miles. The construction of these underground structures shows that they weren’t built at the same time, suggesting that this was not a planned community or the fruit of some sort of blueprint. This discovery came on the heels of the confirmation that Stonehenge was once a complete circle.
Scientists Discover New DNA Base Pairs
Arguably one of the most important discoveries in science this year was the addition of two synthetic DNA base pairs, which join adenine, cytosine, thymine, guanine, and uracil as the basic building blocks of life. When paired and injected into a living bacteria, these base pairs replicate themselves just as in nature. This dramatic breakthrough means that in the future, we could theoretically use these base pairs to create semi-synthetic life which would mimic our own DNA for medical testing, or for uses in genetic engineering and nanotechnology.