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From fastest vaccine ever to hidden lakes on Mars: Here are the top science moments of 2020

The discovery and development of the novel coronavirus vaccine is probably the most incredible scientific achievement of 2020.

December 19, 2020 / 05:26 PM IST
A European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA spacecraft has snapped the closest pictures ever taken of the sun, revealing countless little “campfires” flaring everywhere. On July 16 scientists released the first images taken by Solar Orbiter. Solar Orbiter is an international collaboration between the ESA, and NASA, launched on February 9 this year to study the Sun. (Image: Solar Orbiter/EUI Team (ESA & NASA); CSL, IAS, MPS, PMOD/WRC, ROB, UCL/MSSL/ via AP)

A European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA spacecraft has snapped the closest pictures ever taken of the sun, revealing countless little “campfires” flaring everywhere. On July 16 scientists released the first images taken by Solar Orbiter. Solar Orbiter is an international collaboration between the ESA, and NASA, launched on February 9 this year to study the Sun. (Image: Solar Orbiter/EUI Team (ESA & NASA); CSL, IAS, MPS, PMOD/WRC, ROB, UCL/MSSL/ via AP)

The most thrilling and most keenly observed scientific achievement of the year 2020 has to be the development of the coronavirus vaccine. However, that does not dim the shine of the other breakthrough discoveries and scientific moments that this year has witnessed – right from the discovery of hidden lakes on Mars to scientists finding out that there may be millions of potential habitable planets in the universe. Let us take a look at some more of such incredible scientific discoveries and achievements made in 2020.

COVID-19 research and vaccine: In a span of less than 12 months, coronavirus researchers have been able to sequence the novel coronavirus’ genome, understand the nature of the infection and how it affects the human body, and even developed COVID-19 vaccines that are now being administered across a host of nations. This was the first time ever in the history of mankind that a vaccine was developed this fast.

Hidden lakes on Mars: Scientists believe the presence of water has a direct correlation with habitability. On that note, we come to another remarkable scientific discovery made in 2020 – three hidden lakes on Mars. This means, even though the red Planet looks uninhabitable, it might actually have supported life. The three lakes that were buried under the surface of Mars are spread over 75,000 square kilometres approximately – that would be as large as a small country.

Another Martian discovery would be evidence confirming that water was present on Mars much before we thought it was – which is around 4.4 billion years ago.

New organ discovered in human body: Researchers in The Netherlands accidentally discovered a new organ in the human body. They chanced upon a set of salivary glands that were hitherto unknown. These went unnoticed for years as they are deep set in the upper part of the throat.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Closest ever images of the Sun: US space agency NASA and the European Space Agency launched the Solar Orbiter in February 2020, which sent back the closest images ever taken of the Sun. For the first time, these images showed how miniature solar flares are always burning everywhere on the surface of the Sun.

300 million habitable planets in Milky Way alone: Research revealed almost half of the Sun-like stars in the Milky Way galaxy could have habitable planets in their solar systems. Which means there could be almost 300 million habitable planets inside our galaxy alone. Meanwhile, another study revealed that there are 24 planets that may be more habitable than Earth. These more ‘liveable’ planets are older, larger, and warmer than the Earth.
Moneycontrol News
first published: Dec 19, 2020 05:26 pm

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