Stars collision in astronomy
Astronomers announced an important breakthrough on 16th October, 2017. They detected the collision of two neutron stars on this day. This breakthrough was significant enough in the sense that these collisions would not lead to γ-ray bursts along with the creation of heavier elements in the Universe, such as gold and uranium.
Astronomers detected the gravitational waves, which were dissipated as ripples during the collision. This project was carried out by a team of 70 astronomers at Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) based in the USA. Using sophisticated telescopes, scientists observed these γ-rays and radio-frequency spectrum.
Another important feat of 2017 was advancements in quantum communications. On 15th June, 2017, researchers in China made an important public announcement: they had shot pairs of photons from Micius satellite to two ground stations; the distance of separation between these two stations was 1200 kms. This experiment was a breakthrough event as it broke the record of the distance over which particles are associated with each other in an “entangled” state. This was a major breakthrough for Chinese researchers who are trying to develop “quantum internet” in the near future.
Breakthroughs in Genetics
In 2017, a sophisticated treatment for cancer received its first approval: CAR-T cell therapy. In this approach, the immune cells of a patient were genetically engineered to destroy tumor cells of the target. Although the scientific community is not yet clear about the safety of this novel approach, the method did receive its approval from US FDA. This method was approved for treating acute leukemia in children and young adults.
Organ transplantation may soon become a reality given the path-breaking breakthrough in January, 2017. In a peer-reviewed report, scientist claimed to have developed fetuses with both pig and human cells. These hybrids would then be used for developing animals with organs, which are compatible with that of humans. Then, these organs could then be transplanted into people.
Assisted reproduction received a major boost in 2017 as gene editing was now approved for clinical use in six peer-reviewed studies. For the first time, a team of scientists announced in August 2017 that they had developed an innovative CRISPR–Cas9 gene-editing system that repairs pathogenic (disease-causing) mutation in human embryos. The researchers proved that the method was safe for clinical use as this method did not lead to any unwanted mutations. Another innovative study was published in September 2017. In this study, scientists fixed the gene associated with recessive blood disease in human embryos, which contained unwanted mutations. These researchers had used human skin cells to clone embryos. Then, they corrected the defects by editing single bases of the DNA.
Another important breakthrough in genetics occurred in July 2017. Genomic data of more than 500, 000 participants was released by the UK Biobank; this genetic data is considered to be one of the largest troves till date. Complete information about the health and traits of 500, 000 participants was provided by UK Biobank to approved scientists. Using this genetic data, a team of scientists carried out a study on 2,000 genomes to understand the inheritance of diseases and traits.
Breakthroughs in space science
Cassini spacecraft launched by NASA got burned up in Saturn’s atmosphere on 15th September 2017. At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, scientists and engineers recorded the dwindling and death of incoming radio signals from Cassini spacecraft. This spacecraft had explored the Saturn planet was almost 13 years, and it crashed out as its fuel supply was exhausted completely; therefore, engineers at NASA steered this spacecraft for a crash and prevented it from bumping into one of the moons of Saturn planet. Cassini spacecraft provided important information about the powerful storms and constantly-changing rings of Saturn planet. Moreover, the spacecraft discovered a mammoth sea of hydrocarbon on Titan, which is the moon of Saturn planet.
In October 2017, astronomers observed a fast-moving asteroid whose orbit was unlike anything seen earlier. This important asteroid was spotted by astronomers in Hawaii. They christened this celestial body as “Oumuamua”; it was 400 meters in length and was believed to have originated from interstellar space. This celestial body zipped back toward the Sun and deep space no sooner it was observed. Such an object was observed for the first time ever in space.
In February 2017, astronomers discovered that seven planets (these plants were of the size of Earth) were orbiting around a star named TRAPPIST-1; this star was about 41 light years away from the Sun. This system was peculiar in terms of the number of small planets; all these planets were rotating in temperate orbits. This is an important breakthrough that paves the way for interplanetary visits.