2021 in science

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Extraterrestrial environment
Terrestrial environment

A number of significant scientific events have occurred or are scheduled to occur in 2021.



January 2021 in science
Science Summary for this section (January)
6 January: The first systematic review of the scientific evidence around global waste, its management and its impact on human health and life is published. [11]
  • 6 January
    • Scientists report the successful use of gene editing in mice with progeria, a premature aging disease. [12] [13] [14]
    • Chinese researchers report that they have built the world's largest integrated quantum communication network, combining over 700 optical fibers with two QKD-ground-to-satellite links for a total distance between nodes of the network of networks of up to ~4,600 km. [15] [16]
    • The first systematic review of the scientific evidence around global waste, its management and its impact on human health and life is published, providing assessments, suggestions for corrective action, engineering solutions and requests for further research. It finds that about half of all the municipal solid terrestrial waste – or close to one billion tons per year – is either not collected or mismanaged after collection, often being burned in open and uncontrolled fires. Authors conclude that "massive risk mitigation can be delivered" while noting that broad priority areas each lack a "high-quality research base", partly due to the absence of "substantial research funding", which scientists often require. [11] [17]
  • 7 January
    • A potential mRNA vaccine for multiple sclerosis is presented by a collaboration including BioNTech, with a study in mice showing great promise for improving symptoms and stopping disease progression. [18] [19] [14]
    • The Distribution and Frequency of P681H and D614G Mutations Among All SARS-CoV-2 Sequences by Month Reported in the GISAID Database in Year 2020
      COVID-19 pandemic: Scientists report in a preprint that the mutation 'P681H', a characteristic feature of the significant novel SARS-CoV-2 variants detected in the U.K. and Nigeria, is showing a significant exponential increase in worldwide frequency, similar to the now globally prevalent 'D614G'. [20] [21]
    • Time-series representations of mean relative body size
      Scientists conclude that environmental factors played a major role in the evolution of the slowly-evolving, currently low-diverse Crocodilia (and their ancestor-relatives), with warmer climate being associated with high evolutionary rates and large body sizes. [22] [23]
8 January: News outlets report that scientists, with the Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter, detected an FM radio signal from the moon Ganymede which is reportedly caused by cyclotron maser instability and similar to both WiFi-signals and Jupiter's emissions. [24]
  • 8 January
    • News outlets report that scientists, with the Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter, detected an FM radio signal from the moon Ganymede which is reportedly caused by cyclotron maser instability and similar to both WiFi-signals and Jupiter's radio emissions. [24] [25] A study about the radio emissions was published in September 2020 [26] but did not describe them to be of FM nature or similar to WiFi signals.[ additional citation(s) needed]
    • Artist's conception of the quasar J0313–1806, seen as it was only 670 million years after the Big Bang
      Scientists report the discovery of the most distant, and therefore oldest, quasar, J0313–1806. It is located 13 bn light-years away, does not yet have an accepted non-identifier name and significantly challenges theoretical models of early SMBH growth, apparently existing just ∼670 million years after the Big Bang despite its large size. [27] [28]
    • Archaeologists report that the African cultural phase, called Middle Stone Age, thought to have lasted from ~300–30 ka, lasted to ~11 ka in some places, highlighting significant spatial and temporal cultural variability. [29] [30]
    • A study with mice suggests that childhood diet and exercise can substantially affect adult microbiome composition and diversity. [31] [32] [33]
    • WASP-62b is confirmed to be the first hot Jupiter exoplanet without clouds or haze in its observable atmosphere. [34] [35]
  • 12 January
13 January: A group of 17 high-ranking ecologists conclude that current challenges – themselves individually – that humanity faces and which may lead to a "ghastly" future are large and underestimated. [41]
25 January: Global ice loss is found to be accelerating at a record rate in a scientific review, matching the worst-case scenarios of the IPCC. [71]


February 2021 in science
Science Summary for this section (February)
  • 2 February
  • 5 February
  • 8 February – Scientists report an updated status of studies considering the possible detection of lifeforms on Venus (via of phosphine) and Mars (via methane). [105]
  • 9 February
    • The UAE's Hope spacecraft becomes the first Arabian mission to successfully enter orbit around Mars. [106]
    • A study using a high spatial resolution model and an updated concentration-response function finds that 10.2 million global excess deaths in 2012 and 8.7 million in 2018 – or a fifth[ dubious ] – were due to air pollution generated by fossil fuel combustion, significantly higher than earlier estimates and with spatially subdivided mortality impacts. [107] [108]
    • 9 February: Updated probabilistic forecast of CO2 emissions, based on data to 2015 and the method of Raftery et al. [109]
      A study concludes that the rates of emissions reductions need to increase by 80% beyond NDCs to meet the 2 °C upper target range of the Paris Agreement, that the probabilities of major emitters meeting their NDCs without such an increase is very low, estimating that with current trends the probability of staying below 2 °C of warming is 5% and if NDCs were met and continued post-2030 by all signatory systems 26%. [110] [109]
    • A study finds that air pollution by nitrogen dioxide could be a technosignature by which one could detect extraterrestrial civilizations via "atmospheric SETI". [111] [112] [113]
  • 10 February
18 February: NASA's Perseverance rover lands on Mars.


March 2021 in science
Science Summary for this section
1 March: A review classifies SETI technosignatures. [152]
9 March: Erik Lentz describes a way warp drives sourced from known and familiar purely positive energy could exist. [179]
11 March: A review finds that the Amazon basin currently emits more greenhouse gases than it absorbs overall. [199]
24 March: A view of the M87* supermassive black hole in polarised light


Science Summary video for this section
2 April: Scientists describe how the dinosaur-killing impact is an origin of neotropical rainforests like the Amazonia and replaced its species composition. [238]
6 April: A study finds that carbon emissions from Bitcoin mining within China are about to exceed the total annual carbon emissions of countries like Italy (within an estimated ~3 years). [240]
12 April: The construction of the first (eco-)house 3D printed from clay, Tecla, is completed. [244]
19 April: The semi-autonomous Ingenuity performs the first powered aircraft flight on another planet in human history. [281]
29 April: The first, core module of the Chinese Tiangong space station is put into orbit. [282]
  • 15 April
  • 16 April – Scientists report that in the case of Alaskan forests, such boreal forests recovered from wildfires by shifting to a deciduous- coniferous mix, which could offset the carbon emitted during the fires. [297] [298]
  • 17 April – New Horizons reaches a distance of 50 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun, while remaining fully operational. [299]
  • 19 April – NASA's Ingenuity helicopter, part of the Mars 2020 mission, performs the first powered aircraft flight on another planet in history. The test location is named " Wright Brothers Field". [300] [301] [281]
  • 20 April
    • Perseverance performs a test of its MOXIE instrument to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen for the first time on Mars. [302]
    • The Ivanti Pulse Connect Secure data breach of unauthorized access to the networks of high-value targets since at least June 2020 via CVE- 2021-22893 across the U.S. and some E.U. nations[ additional citation(s) needed] due to their use of vulnerable, proprietary software is reported. [303] [304]
    • Scientists show that a class of warp drives that are slower than light, could control the rate of time within the spaceship and are sourced from positive energy could in principle possibly be constructed based on known physical principles. Furthermore, they provide a new argument "why superluminal warp drive solutions may always violate weak energy conditions" and that the concept proposed in a study published in March (see above) "likely forms a new class of warp drive spacetimes". [305] [306]
  • 23 April
  • 27 April – Astronomers report the discovery of TOI-1431b, an " ultra-hot Jupiter" with a dayside temperature of ~3,000°K (2,700 °C), making it one of the hottest exoplanets found to date. [312] [313]
  • 29 April – The first, core module of the Chinese Tiangong space station, Tianhe, is placed in low Earth orbit. It is one of three permanent modules intended to be fully assembled in 2022 for a designed lifespan of 10–15 years, is 16.6 m in size and could host three astronaut scientists. [282]


Science Summary video for this section


Science Summary podcast based on this section
  • 2 June
    • NASA selects DAVINCI+ and VERITAS, two proposed spacecraft to study the atmosphere and surface of Venus, as the next missions in its Discovery Program. [390]
    • A new study provides experimental evidence of asymmetric response of interfacial water to applied electric field by using a single layer graphene electrode and a novel surface-sensitive non-linear spectroscopy technique with implications for various water-related processes such as in water purification. [391] [392] [393]
    • Scientists report that COVID-19 caused substantial changes to blood cells, sometimes persisting for months after hospital discharge, with implications for COVID-19 diagnostics and treatment. [394] [395]
  • 3 June – Scientists report that due to decreases in power generation efficiency of wind farms downwind of offshore wind farms, cross-national limits and potentials for optimization need to be considered in strategic decision-making. [396] [397]
7 June: Astronomers report detecting substantial amounts of methane, a possible sign of microbial life, on Enceladus. [398]
10 June: Researchers report the development of a plant proteins-based biodegradable packaging alternative to plastic molecularly similar to high-strength spider silk. [413]
11 June: Biologists report that DNA polymerases, long thought to only transcribe DNA into DNA or RNA, can also write RNA segments into DNA. [421]
  • 11 June – Biologists report that DNA polymerases, long thought to only transcribe DNA into DNA or RNA, can also write RNA segments into DNA. Polθ was found to promote RNA-templated DNA repair, with large implications for many fields of biology. [422] [421]
  • 14 June – Astronomers describe the largest known spinning structures in the Universe, consisting of " tendrils" of galaxies spanning hundreds of millions of light-years in length. [423] [424] [425]
15 June: Scientists complement extensive evidence that cosmetics are widely designed with formulations and disposals that are known to be harmful to human health and ecosystems, often containing PFAS. [426]


Science Summary podcast based on this section
10 July: Scientists report the discovery of long extrachromosomal DNA structures, they call " borgs", which appear to incorporate genes from organisms they encounter in or near archaea in mud. [489]
22 July: DeepMind's AlphaFold AI predicts the 3D structures of ~350,000 proteins. [514]
28 July: The first direct observation of light from behind a black hole. [520]
28 July: Scientists publish an update to the World Scientists' Warning to Humanity. [527]


9 August: The IPCC begins releasing its latest major report on climate change.
Researchers present a bioprinting method to produce steak-like cultured meat.



Predicted and scheduled events

Date unknown

Astronomical events



  • 4 January – Martinus J. G. Veltman, Dutch theoretical physicist and Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1931)
  • 28 January – Paul J. Crutzen, Dutch meteorologist and atmospheric chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1933)
  • 16 February – Bernard Lown, Lithuanian-born American inventor and cardiologist (b. 1921) [655]
  • 1 April – Isamu Akasaki, Japanese engineer and physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1929)
  • 4 April– Robert Mundell, Canadian economist (b. 1932)
  • 4 June – Richard R. Ernst, Swiss physical chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1933)
  • 6 June – Ei-ichi Negishi, Japanese chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1935)
  • 23 July – Toshihide Maskawa, Japanese physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1940)
  • 23 July – Steven Weinberg, American physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1933)

See also


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