The Most Mind-Blowing, Life-Altering Scientific Discoveries of 2018


In 2018, scientists succeeded in some impressive feats: Engineers at SpaceX sent a red sports car flying past Mars, Chinese researchers cloned a pair of monkeys, and people in Egypt found cheese that was manufactured 3,000 years ago. (Don't eat it.)

Over the past year, scientists also figured out how to "touch" the sun using a heat-resistant probe, use tiny robots to kill cancer, and stop painful migraines.

These and other accomplishments were an encouraging reminder that scientists across the globe are learning more about how life and the universe work every day .

As the new year approaches, take a look back at some of the most marvelous, life-changing, and astonishing scientific discoveries and feats from 2018.

In February, SpaceX nailed an impressive feat: the company launched its reusable, 27-engine Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time. It's the company's most powerful yet.

After Falcon Heavy launched on February 6, 2018, two of the rocket's three reusable boosters landed safely on the ground in Florida.

The core booster, however, missed its landing pad on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

"Apparently it hit the water at 300 miles an hour and took out two of the engines on the drone ship," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said. That loss was relatively minor in the context of the launch's overall success, though.

The payload on that Falcon Heavy rocket was Musk's red Tesla Roadster, complete with a dummy driver and a note on the dash: "DON'T PANIC!"

The car is still cruising the solar system today. In November, SpaceX announced it had sailed past Mars.

In March, scientists at NASA revealed new findings about how living in space can mess with your eyes and immune system.

When NASA astronaut Scott Kelly left his identical twin brother, Mark, on Earth and spent a year in space, scientists seized on the opportunity to learn more about out how life away from our home planet can change a person.

Researchers found that up to 7% of Scott's gene expression hasn't returned to its Earthly "normal" state since he came back. Those changes may be part of the body's response to the stress of living in space, and they could lead to lasting consequences for Kelly's immune system and retinas.

Star-gazers spotted a new kind of aurora that travels farther south than most. Its name is STEVE.

STEVE, or Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement, and the MIlky Way at Childs Lake, Manitoba, Canada. Krista Trinder/ NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

The purplish aurora travels on different magnetic field lines than others, so it can appear much closer to the equator than the Northern Lights.

The strange lights were first reported by citizen scientists in Canada in 2015. The amateurs formed a group and started working with researchers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. The result of that collaboration — the discovery of a new kind of aurora — was published in the journal Science Advances on March 14.

STEVE, or Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement, can be tough to see, though, because the display typically lasts for less than an hour.

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