2012 is not over, but we can highlight some discoveries that are worthy of the Guinness World Records.
Let’s take a look at top ten discoveries of the year.
Giant Crocodile Breaks Size Record
Lolong has hit the big time—at 20.24 feet (6.17 meters) long, the saltwater crocodile is officially the largest in captivity, the Guinness World Records announced in July
The monster reptile is the subject of the tenth most visited National Geographic News story of 2012.
Suspected of attacking several people and killing two, the giant reptile was captured alive in the Philippines’ Bunawan township (map) in September 2011.
The Guinness listing is based on data by experts including crocodile zoologist Adam Britton, who measured the beast in his home, the new Bunawan Eco-Park and Research Centre.
9) Sugar Found in Space
Astronomers have made a sweet discovery: simple sugar molecules floating in the gas around a star some 400 light-years away, suggesting the possibility of life on other planets.
The August discovery doesn’t prove that life has developed elsewhere in the universe—but it implies that there is no reason it could not. It shows that the carbon-rich molecules that are the building blocks of life can be present even before planets have begun forming.
Scientists use the term “sugar” to loosely refer to organic molecules known as carbohydrates, which are made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.
8) New Planet Found in Our Solar System?
An as yet undiscovered planet might be orbiting at the dark fringes of the solar system, according to a study published in May.
Too far out to be easily spotted by telescopes, the potential unseen planet appears to be making its presence felt by disturbing the orbits of so-called Kuiper belt objects, said Rodney Gomes, an astronomer at the National Observatory of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro.
Kuiper belt objects are small icy bodies—including some dwarf planets—that lie beyond the orbit of Neptune.
7) “God Particle” Found?
In July, two separate teams working at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) reported they were more than 99 percent certain they’ve discovered the Higgs boson, aka the God particle—or at the least a brand-new particle exactly where they expected the Higgs to be.
The long-sought particle may complete the standard model of physics by explaining why objects in our universe have mass—and in so doing, why galaxies, planets, and even humans have any right to exist.
6) “Lost World” in Antarctica
An unnamed new species of Yeti crab swarms near hot, mineral-rich hydrothermal vents in the oceans off Antarctica—a newfound “lost world” of strange deep-sea species, scientists say.
A camera-equipped submersible robot filmed species such as barnacles, crabs, anemones, and even an octopus, all of which are mostly colorless and live in utter darkness at depths of 7,875 feet (2,400 meters), according to a January study.
5) Nine-Planet System Discovered?
A star about 127 light-years from Earth may have even more planets than the sun, which would make the planetary system the most populated yet found.
According to an April study, HD 10180—a sunlike star in the southern constellation Hydrus—may have as many as nine orbiting planets, besting the eight official planets in our solar system.
4) New-Species “Heaven” in Peru
A new species of night monkey (pictured) is one of eight new mammals found during an expedition to northern Peru’s Tabaconas Namballe National Sanctuary (map), scientists announced in September.
A team of Mexican and Peruvian biologists found this “new heaven of unknown biodiversity” during a 2009-2011 expedition, according to a press statement.
3) Limbless Amphibians Discovered
They aren’t worms or even snakes. They’re soil-burrowing, limbless amphibians, and they’re completely new to science, a February study suggested.
Pictured guarding a brood of eggs in its native northeastern India, the animal above is one of about six potentially new species belonging to a mysterious group of animals called caecilians. What’s more, the newfound critters represent an entirely new family of amphibians.
2) Maya Mural Contradicts Doomsday
In the last known largely unexcavated Maya megacity, archaeologists have uncovered the only known mural adorning an ancient Maya house—and it’s not just any mural, scientists said in May.
In addition to a still vibrant scene of a king and his retinue, the walls are rife with calculations that helped ancient scribes track vast amounts of time. Contrary to the idea the Maya predicted the end of the world in 2012, the markings suggest dates thousands of years in the future.
1) “Dramatic” Maya Temple Found
Some 1,600 years ago, the Temple of the Night Sun was a blood-red beacon visible for miles and adorned with giant masks of the Maya sun god as a shark, blood drinker, and jaguar.
Long since lost to the Guatemalan jungle, the temple—our most popular discovery of 2012—is finally showing its faces to archaeologists, and revealing new clues about the rivalrous kingdoms of the Maya, scientists said in May.
Unlike the relatively centralized Aztec and Inca empires, the Maya civilization—which spanned much of what are now Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico’s Yucatán region (Maya map)—was a loose aggregation of city-states.