A Year of Scientific Wonders: Celebrating National Science Day 2024

A Year of Scientific Wonders: Celebrating National Science Day 2024

National Science Day is celebrated every year on February 28 to commemorate the discovery of the Raman effect by Indian physicist Sir C.V. Raman in 1928. The day also aims to highlight the achievements of the scientific community and inspire young minds to pursue science as a career. On this occasion, let us look back at some of the most remarkable scientific breakthroughs that happened around the world in 2023.

One of the most proud moments for India in 2023 was the successful landing of its Chandrayaan-3 mission on the lunar south pole, making it the first country to achieve this feat. The mission, which consisted of a lander and a rover, was launched on January 15, 2023, and reached the moon’s orbit on January 29. After a series of orbital maneuvers, the lander separated from the orbiter and touched down on the south pole on February 1, followed by the deployment of the rover.

The main objectives of the mission were to study the topography, mineralogy, surface temperature, and water-ice distribution of the lunar south pole, which is considered to be a potential site for future human exploration and colonization. The mission also carried several scientific instruments from India and other countries, including a laser retroreflector array from NASA, a passive thermal probe from France, and a radiation dosimeter from Sweden.

The Chandrayaan-3 mission was a remarkable achievement for India’s space program, which had faced a setback in 2019 when its previous lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2, failed to land on the moon due to a technical glitch. The success of Chandrayaan-3 demonstrated India’s resilience and innovation in space science and technology, and earned it global recognition and appreciation.

Scientists Discover ‘Life Ingredients’ in Extremely Cold Space

In a surprising discovery, scientists found evidence of organic molecules, such as amino acids and sugars, in extremely cold regions of space, where temperatures are as low as -263°C. These molecules are considered to be the building blocks of life, and their presence in such harsh environments suggests that life may exist or originate in places that were previously thought to be inhospitable.

The discovery was made by a team of researchers from the University of Arizona, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, using data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a network of radio telescopes in Chile. The researchers analyzed the spectra of two young star systems, called IRAS 16293-2422 and VLA 1623-2417, located about 400 light-years away from Earth. They found that the star systems were surrounded by dense clouds of dust and gas, where complex organic molecules were formed and preserved by the extremely low temperatures.

The researchers speculated that these molecules could have been delivered to Earth and other planets by comets and asteroids, and could have played a role in the origin of life. They also suggested that similar processes could be happening in other cold regions of the universe, opening new possibilities for the search for extraterrestrial life.

First-Ever Study Suggests Humans Could Reproduce in Space

In a groundbreaking study, scientists showed that human sperm cells could survive and function in microgravity, the condition of near-weightlessness experienced by astronauts in space. This finding could have implications for the future of human reproduction and colonization in space, as well as for understanding the effects of space travel on human health.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Zurich, the German Aerospace Center, and the European Space Agency, using samples of frozen sperm from 10 healthy donors. The samples were exposed to microgravity for up to 9 days, using a device called a Random Positioning Machine, which simulates the conditions of spaceflight. The researchers then compared the samples with control samples that were kept on Earth, and evaluated various parameters, such as motility, viability, morphology, and DNA integrity, of the sperm cells.

The results showed that there was no significant difference between the microgravity and the control samples, indicating that human sperm cells could survive and function normally in microgravity. The researchers also performed in vitro fertilization experiments, using eggs from cattle, and found that the microgravity sperm cells could successfully fertilize the eggs, resulting in the formation of embryos.

The researchers cautioned that their study was limited by the use of frozen sperm samples, the short duration of exposure, and the lack of actual spaceflight conditions. They also noted that there were many other factors that could affect human reproduction in space, such as radiation, stress, and immune system changes. However, they expressed hope that their study could pave the way for further research and experiments on this topic, and could help address some of the challenges and ethical issues related to human reproduction and colonization in space.

Other Notable Scientific Breakthroughs in 2023

Apart from the above-mentioned discoveries, there were many other scientific breakthroughs that happened in 2023, across various fields and disciplines. Some of them are:

  • Scientists achieved a major breakthrough in reproductive biology when they successfully produced mice from two biologically male parents, opening the possibility of bipaternal reproduction. The study suggested that same-sex couples could potentially have a genetically identical child in the future.
  • Scientists detected the first-ever low-frequency gravitational waves, which reverberated across the cosmos when massive celestial bodies moved and collided with each other. These waves could help reveal new insights into the nature and history of the universe.
  • Scientists discovered six new exoplanets, pushing the number of known planets beyond our solar system over 5,500. These planets varied in size, composition, and orbit, and could offer new clues about the diversity and habitability of other worlds.
  • Scientists found that carnivorous dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex did not resemble crocodiles, as previously thought. Instead, they had lips that covered their teeth, like modern lizards. This finding could change the way we imagine and reconstruct these ancient creatures.
  • Scientists grew the first tomatoes in the International Space Station, but they went ‘missing’ after being eaten by the astronaut who grew them. The incident sparked a debate about the ownership and consumption of space-grown crops, as well as the challenges and benefits of growing food in space.
  • Scientists developed a therapy using the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool to treat sickle-cell disease, a genetic disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. The therapy was approved by the UK medicines regulator, and could offer a permanent cure for the disease.

National Science Day 2024 is a time to celebrate these and many other scientific breakthroughs that happened in 2023, and to appreciate the efforts and contributions of the scientists and researchers who made them possible. It is also a time to inspire and encourage the next generation of scientists, who will continue to explore and discover new frontiers of knowledge and innovation.