2015 has been a big year for science. The Wikipedia page for breakthroughs in 2015 alone is nearly 12,000 words long, and contains a roll call of some truly amazing discoveries and breakthroughs that those hardworking scientists made this year. This was the year in which we all got a bit more excited about Mars, came one step closer to Jurassic Park becoming a reality, and came together in support and admiration for an icy little dwarf planet at the edge of our solar system. It seems that, with every new announcement, we get closer and closer to turning science fiction into science fact. What with the leaps in artificial intelligence, space exploration, gene therapy and medical science, it looks like we could be living in the future sooner than we thought. Take a look at our round-up of 15 huge scientific breakthroughs in 2015, and look forwards to an equally mind-boggling 2016.
15. Our Solar System Probably Has At Least Two More Planets
Way back in January 2015, the scientists responsible for stripping Pluto of its planet status, Mike Brown, was at it again, but this time he was suggesting we boost our planet count. In his paper, A serendipitous all sky survey for bright objects in the outer solar system, he discussed the possibility that there could be some pretty big planets lurking in the outer solar system. Soon after the paper was reported, a group of astronomers from Spain and the UK seemed to have confirmed his suspicions. The region of the solar system beyond Neptune is known to be teeming with small icy bodies, including dwarf planets like Pluto, called extreme trans-Neptunian objects (ETNO). However, after studying these ETNO, it was found that they weren't behaving quite as expected, with a few slightly skewiff orbital patterns. By analysing the effects of what is called the "Kozai mechanism" scientists were able to deduce that the presence of two large planets, possibly 10 times the size of the Earth, would be sufficient to influence the ETNO in such a way. These icy super-Earths, despite their size, would not be particularly bright or visible, and so we may have to satisfy ourselves with inferring their presence for now.