Space: the final frontier-of-the-year quiz

by Ananya Sen

The year 2018 saw several unusual discoveries that were made in our solar system and beyond. The findings ranged from explaining historical artifacts to confirming predictions that were made by science fiction enthusiasts. If you consider yourself a space trivia enthusiast or you want a summary of the exciting discoveries that have been made this year, this quiz is exactly what you’re looking for.

A note on how the quiz works: You choose the answer you prefer, and then carry on reading through the questions and check the answers at the end against your choices. There's no automated scoring, but we hope you enjoy the quiz! Please share how well you did!

1. Images taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft during its flyby of Pluto showed the presence of dunes on Pluto’s surface. This discovery was surprising because there is not much of an atmosphere on Pluto’s surface. What were the dunes made of?
2. This year scientists were carrying out studies on the black hole that is at the center of our universe. What serendipitous discovery did they make?
3. The Dark Energy Survey, an international research effort is a five-year project that ended in 2018. In August 2016 they detected something interesting as seen in the animation below. What does it show?

4. Astronomers have discovered a planet revolving around 40 Eridani A, an orange dwarf star 16 light years from Earth. Which fictitious planet was predicted to be associated with this star?

5. Scientists believe they have finally discovered
     Hydrogen sulfide (farts)
     Methane (marshy land)
     Methanethiol (rotting vegetables)

6. How many new moons were discovered around Jupiter in 2018?

7. In 1922 Howard Carter, a British archeologist, discovered King Tut’s tomb. Inside the tomb he found a breast plate which contained a winged scarab, made from a yellow, translucent gemstone. How was this gemstone formed?
     A comet exploded over the Libyan Desert and the resultant heat melted the sand glass forming bits of the gemstone
     It was formed when hot magma was expelled from deep inside the earth’s crust and cooled rapidly in the desert
     The gemstones were formed deep inside the earth and were encased in rocks. These rocks then made their way to the surface and the weathering process released the underlying gemstone

8. For the past three years two radio telescopes in Tasmania and continental Australia have been arranged to track the Vela pulsar, a neutron star associated with the constellation of Vela. What were the telescopes trying to detect?
     Radio emissions
     A glitch in its normal behavior
     Magnetic fields

9.Which satellite was launched in 2018 to detect rocky planets around nearby stars?

10. Where on Mars did NASA’s Curiosity rover find organic material in 2018? 
     In the debris of the Hellas Planitia crater
     The soil on the Olympus Mons volcano
     Mudstones on the slopes of Mount Sharp

The answers:
Question 1: Pluto's sand dunes are made of frozen methane.
Question 2: The scientists discovered bright flares from a superheated gas racing around the black hole.
Question 3: The Dark Energy Survey observed a supernova in 2016.
Question 4: Vulcan was predicted to be associated with 40 Eridani A.
Question 5: Uranus smells of hydrogen sulfide (farts).
Question 6: 10 new moons were discovered around Jupiter in 2018
Question 7: A comet exploded over the Libyan Desert and the resultant heat melted the sand glass forming bits of the gemstone.
Question 8: The telescopes were trying to detect a glitch in the Vela pulsar. 
Question 9: TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) was launched in 2018
Question 10: The Curiosity rover discovered organic matter in the mudstones on the slopes of Mount Sharp.

Ananya Sen is a grad student in microbiology at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She spends 80% of her time working on oxidative stress in the Imlay lab and the remaining 20% of her time blogging about science, exploring food, taking care of her dog.

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