TALLAHASSEE (WTXL) - Every day there seems to be amazing advancements in the world of science. This year was no different, lets countdown the top 5 biggest science stories that occurred this year.
Coming in at number five, scientists get one step closer to bridging the gap between apes and humans. Lee Burger and his team in South Africa found over 15 hundred fossils from a previously undiscovered species they call "Homo naledi." This creature lived 2 to 4 million years ago, had a small brain with an ape-like chest but had human-shaped hands, legs and feet. And though it's not classified as human, archaeologists found that Homo naledi buried its dead, something that was previously thought to be unique to only humans.
The Paris climate agreement comes in at number 4. 195 nations came together to hopefully slow the process of global warming. Many argue that it does not do enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but it's the huge step that most world leaders agree that it's finally time take action. They hope the emissions cut will limit the global average temperature to stay below the pivotal 2 degree Celsius rise, the level of warming most scientists deem as the point of no return, which would threaten life on Earth.
Number three is the Ebola vaccines. The virus raged through West Africa in 2014 and early this year killing more than 11 thousand people. Now, thanks to the vaccines, the epidemic appears to be under control. A single high dose of one of the vaccines is enough to rally the body's response to fight the virus and completely eliminate it. It's on deck to receive approval from the FDA.
In July, Pluto came into focus with stunning images released by NASA. The New Horizons probe which launched nearly 10 years ago, showed a stunning dwarf planet that seemed to have a heart in its southern hemisphere. And it captured the heart of nearly everyone, proving that people still love this distant hunk of space rock. Astronomers can now see mountains of ice towering thousands of feet over nitrogen and methane fields, uncovering the mystery of this distant planet discovered nearly eight decades ago.
And finally the number 1 science story this year. In September, NASA announced that its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Space Craft spotted salty streaks on mountains that lengthen and shrink with the seasons. This indicates that salt water oozes from the slopes during their warm months. Liquid water is part of the equation of how we know life to exist. Knowing whether there is life on mars or if there ever was, will have to wait until 2020 when NASA will launch a rover to retrieve rocks which will be flown back to Earth.