Science Review 2012 – Top 100 science stories: Nos 10-6
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured this image of an M7.9 class flare on 13 March 2012 at 1.29 pm EDT. It is shown here in the 131 Angstrom wavelength. Image by NASA/SDO

Science Review 2012 – Top 100 science stories: Nos 10-6

19 Dec 2012

We continue our countdown of Ireland’s top science and innovation stories of 2012. It was the year Dublin became the European City of Science and major scientific breakthroughs occurred in every field.

During four days in July, international scientists, policy-makers and business leaders, as well as the general public, converged on the Euroscience Open Forum in Dublin, the highlight in a year full of science and innovation events, such as Science Week, Nanoweek, and Engineers Week.

Most notable during 2012, however, is the impact young people in Ireland have been making in innovation. James Whelton’s CoderDojo movement has gone international, student Paddy Mulcahy won the Irish leg of the 2012 James Dyson award, Mark Kelly and Eric Doyle, this year’s overall winners at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, also scooped another top award at the EUCYS, and teenager Joanne O’Riordan, who has no limbs, gave a speech to global leaders at a United Nations conference for Girls in ICT Day on how technology has changed her life.

To celebrate a year that also included great research, discoveries and partnerships, has dedicated this month to the top 100 most popular science and innovation stories of 2012. Our countdown continues below.

Simulated data of a decay path of the Higgs boson

10 – Higgs boson particle search explained (video)

Particle physicist Daniel Whiteson gives a cartoon video tour from CERN to explain the Higgs boson and how scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, have been working to find the elusive particle.

Physicists at CERN presented evidence of a new subatomic particle they believe could be consistent with the Higgs boson.

Scientists from the ATLAS and CMS experiments at the Large Hadron Collider presented their latest preliminary results and they said the ‘God particle’ is within reach.

Code Year

9 – More than 120,000 people sign up for Codeacademy’s Code Year

Codeacademy, the innovative website that teaches ordinary folk how to become programmers, has achieved great success with its new initiative, Code Year, that provides weekly coding lessons and will turn users into app builders and creators in no time.

At the time of writing, Code Year has attracted 121,006 people.

Codeacademy assumes you know nothing about software programming and goes on to teach you the rudiments of coding and gets you to a point where you can build your own applications.

Subaru XMM-Newton

8 – Astronomers claim to have discovered oldest galaxy

Japanese astronomers who have been using the Subaru and Keck optical/infrared telescopes on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea are claiming they have discovered the most distant galaxy ever, at a distance of 12.91bn light years away from planet Earth.

Mauna Kea’s 4,200 metre-high summit itself hosts the world’s largest observatory for optical, infrared and submillimeter astronomy.

For instance, NASA broadcast a live webinar of the transit of Venus based on observations of the astronomical event from Mauna Kea.

Aurora Borealis in Quebec

7 – Star lovers prepare for the Northern Lights

This year delivered a cosmic treat in terms of viewing the Aurora Borealis. Because the sun was at its 11-year peak, astronomers predicted it would be easier to see the Northern Lights, even in Ireland.

Stargazers have traditionally descended upon Northern Norway regions such as Troms and Finnmark to observe the Aurora Borealis, but this year Ireland was in with an even better chance of witnessing the spectacular atmospheric phenomenon because the sun was at the peak of its 11-year solar cycle.

In Ireland, the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights was before the spring equinox on 20 March.

M7.9 class flare

6 – Sun erupts with M7.9-class solar flare – NASA

Sunspot 1429 remained active, after the sun erupted with an M7.9-class flare from the same region that had been producing flares and coronal mass ejections during a week in March, space agency NASA reported.

In early March, NASA suggested that high-frequency radio communications, GPS and power grids could be impacted by two coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that were hurling towards Earth. On 6 March, the sun erupted with one of the largest solar flares of this solar cycle. However, the solar storm passed without any major incident. NASA had also indicated at the time that a CME would also induce auroras at low latitudes.

However, NASA did say that the solar flare of 6 March ‘triggered a temporary radio blackout on the sunlit side of Earth that interfered with radio navigation and short-wave radio’.

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