The dwarf planet Eris is discovered
On 5th January 2005, the world of astronomy was stirred by the announcement of a major discovery: a new celestial body within the Solar System, later to be named Eris.
Though the images that led to Eris's identification were initially captured in October 2003, at the Palomar Observatory in California, it took over a year of observation and analysis to confirm the existence, orbit, and other characteristics of the object.
Positioned beyond Neptune in the cold, distant reaches of the Solar System, Eris was found to be part of a region known as the Kuiper Belt, a vast ring of icy debris orbiting the Sun. Eris was particularly noteworthy due to its size and brightness. With a diameter only slightly smaller than Pluto, conventional definitions of what constitutes a planet were challenged.
In October 2005, further observations revealed that Eris had a moon, later to be named Dysnomia. With an estimated diameter of 615 km, it spanned about a quarter of Eris's diameter. Additional measurements found Dysnomia to be significantly less massive than Eris, with a density consistent with it being mainly composed of ice. In contrast to Eris's highly-reflective icy surface, Dysnomia had a very dark surface, reflecting only 5% of incoming visible light. These physical properties indicated that Dysnomia likely formed from a large impact on Eris, in a similar manner to other binary dwarf planet systems like Pluto, Orcus, and the Earth–Moon system.
Eris's discovery marked a turning point in the debate surrounding planetary classification, prompting the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to reconsider its definition of a "planet." In 2006, the IAU introduced the term "dwarf planet" to categorise minor bodies like Eris and redefined Pluto's status from a planet to a dwarf planet as well.
Huygens probe reveals images of Titan's surface
The Huygens probe, supplied by the European Space Agency (ESA) and named after the Dutch 17th century astronomer Christiaan Huygens, was an atmospheric entry probe carried to Saturn's moon Titan as part of the Cassini-Huygens mission. The combined Cassini-Huygens spacecraft was launched from Earth in 1997.
Huygens separated from the Cassini orbiter on 25th December 2004 and landed on Titan on 14th January 2005, near the Xanadu region. It touched down on land, although the possibility that it would touch down in an ocean was also taken into account during its design. The probe continued to send data for about 90 minutes after reaching the surface.
Iraqi parliamentary election
On 30th January 2005, a historic milestone occurred in Iraq. For the first time in nearly half a century, the country held multi-party elections without the overbearing influence of a single-party system or dictator. Amidst a backdrop of significant security concerns and sectarian tensions, the courage and determination of the Iraqi populace shone through as they headed to the polls.
The primary aim of this election was to select 275 members of the new National Assembly. This legislature had been created under the Transitional Law during the international occupation. The newly elected body was given a mandate to write a new constitution and exercise legislative functions until it came into effect.
The United Iraqi Alliance, tacitly backed by Shia Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, emerged as the largest bloc with 48% of the vote. The Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan (DPAK) came in second place with 26%, whilst interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's party, the Iraqi List, came third with 14%. In total, twelve parties received enough votes to win a seat in the assembly.
A new draft constitution was presented to the Iraqi people for their approval in a national referendum in October 2005. Under this constitution, Iraq would elect a permanent government in December 2005 as new legislative elections were held for the Council of Representatives of Iraq. Once again, the United Iraqi Alliance emerged with the most votes, but with a lower share at 41%; DPAK came in second again with 22%, while the Iraqi Accord Front had 15%.
These elections, while symbolic of the nation's aspirations for democracy and stability after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, also brought to the forefront the myriad challenges Iraq faced in establishing a robust democratic framework in subsequent years.
Hundreds of voters line up outside a polling place in Baghdad.
Google Maps is launched
On 8th February 2005, search giant Google introduced Google Maps, a new web-based mapping service offering detailed satellite imagery and street maps for seemingly every location on earth. The platform would later integrate more features, such as embedding in other websites, a trip planner with public transit options and schedules, real-time traffic news, interactive panoramas via Street View, and mobile device compatibility.
YouTube is launched
On 14th February 2005, YouTube.com was launched by three former PayPal employees, Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim. The platform was created as a user-friendly way for people to upload, share, and view videos. The first video, titled "Me at the zoo," was uploaded by Karim on 23rd April.*
YouTube grew rapidly, reaching 100 million views per day within a year of launch. In 2006, it was acquired by Google for $1.65 billion. By 2007, the site consumed as much bandwidth as the entire Internet in 2000, and in March 2008, its bandwidth costs reached $1 million a day. By 2009, it had reached over a billion views daily and become the 4th most popular website after Google, Yahoo! and Facebook.
YouTube's impact on society and culture was huge. Before its launch, there were few easy methods available for the average computer user to post videos online. With its simple interface, YouTube made it possible for anyone with a connection to post a video that a worldwide audience could watch within minutes. The wide range of topics covered by YouTube made it one of the most important aspects of Internet culture and media consumption.
YouTube popularised many trends outside the Internet, created Internet celebrities, and promoted public debates around the globe. However, the site proved controversial in some nations, with governments blocking access. It also received criticism for its role in spreading misinformation, and for failing to ensure copyright protection.
The Kyoto Protocol officially goes into effect
On 16th February 2005, the Kyoto Protocol officially came into force, marking a landmark in the effort to address climate change. Conceived in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, this treaty committed its signatories, mainly industrialised nations, to reduce their collective greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by an average of 5.2% from 1990 levels, over the commitment period of 2008–2012.
The Kyoto Protocol had a pioneering role in fostering international cooperation against climate change. By its conclusion in 2012, many participating countries had met or even surpassed their targets, leading to a collective emission reduction within the confines of the agreement.
However, critics pointed out its limitations. Notably, major emitters like the United States did not ratify the treaty, and emerging economies like China and India had no mandated targets. Consequently, while emissions decreased in many Kyoto-compliant countries, global emissions overall continued to rise.
Delorme, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
The Airbus A380 superjumbo makes its first flight
A milestone in aviation occurred on 27th April 2005, as the Airbus A380, dubbed the 'Superjumbo', embarked on its maiden flight. Representing the pinnacle of large-scale passenger aircraft, it firmly established itself as the world's biggest ever passenger airliner, eclipsing its closest competitor, the Boeing 747.
With two expansive passenger decks, the A380 could accommodate 575 passengers in a standard three-class configuration, and as many as 853 passengers in an all-economy class layout. In contrast, the Boeing 747 typically seated around 416 passengers in a three-class setup, or 467 for the newer 747-8 model.
The A380's striking wingspan, which extended beyond 79 metres (vs. 68.5 metres for the 747), combined with its four-engine design, allowed it to traverse intercontinental distances effortlessly. Departing from Toulouse, France, the A380's inaugural flight signified a leap in aviation capabilities, with the aircraft's vastness, comfort, and amenities setting new benchmarks.
As the years progressed, however, a discernible trend in aviation saw a tilt towards smaller, more fuel-efficient aircraft that provided airlines with improved route flexibility and responded to passengers' preference for more direct flights. But while the industry's dynamics evolved, the A380's introduction and its sheer scale in comparison to other aircraft would forever be emblematic of Airbus's innovative spirit in the aerospace domain.
A380. Credit: Maarten Visser from Capelle aan den IJssel, Nederland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Intel launches the Pentium D
On 25th May 2005, computing giant Intel unveiled the Pentium D, marking its foray into the world of dual-core processors. This innovation encapsulated two Pentium 4 cores on a single die, offering enhanced multitasking compared to previous single-core CPUs. The brand's first processor was codenamed Smithfield and was manufactured using a 90 nm process, with 230 million transistors. It was followed by the 65 nm Presler, packing 376 million transistors.
Since it consisted of two separate cores on one chip, rather than a single integrated core, the Pentium D was not a true native dual-core design – but its introduction nevertheless signified a pivotal shift in computing, paving the way for subsequent advancements in multi-core architectures.
The Pentium D brand was merged with the Pentium 4 brand and succeeded in July 2006 by the Core 2 branded line of processors, with Core microarchitecture released as dual- and quad-core processors branded Duo, Quad, and Extreme.
Core counts increased further over subsequent years. By the early 2020s, chips with 12, 16, or even more cores had become common in both consumer and professional-grade hardware. This move by Intel, and the industry at large, was a response to the increasing demands of modern software and the need for better parallel processing capabilities.
Reddit is founded
Reddit, often referred to as "the front page of the internet," was founded by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian. The idea was conceived while both were attending the University of Virginia, and the website was subsequently launched on 23rd June 2005.
Reddit's platform introduced communities known as "subreddits", based around certain topics or themes, where users could post content, including links and text. Each post was upvoted or downvoted by the community. This democratic approach to content curation allowed popular content to rise to the top, making it visible to a larger audience.
While Reddit enjoyed steady growth from its inception, a significant surge in its user base occurred from 2010 due to controversies surrounding changes to a competing platform, Digg.com. This rival site, which enjoyed huge popularity at the time, introduced a redesign (referred to as "Digg v4") that was widely criticised by its user base. Most of the platform's users felt that these changes shifted power away from the community and towards publishers and advertisers. Soon afterwards, users migrated en masse from Digg to Reddit, cementing the latter's position as the leading social news aggregator.
Reddit became a powerful force on the Internet – boasting tens of millions of users, and subreddits catering to virtually every interest imaginable. It raised publicity for numerous causes, and grew to be one of the most visited sites on the web. The company reportedly filed for an IPO in December 2021 with a valuation of $15 billion.
However, Reddit also drew negative attention over the years for its propensity to spread misinformation. Many subreddits also gained notoriety due to explicit, violent, or hateful material.
Reddit homepage in 2005. Credit: Web Design Museum
Spain legalises same-sex marriage
On 30th June 2005, Spain took a historic step by legalising same-sex marriage, becoming the third country in the world to do so after the Netherlands in 2001 and Belgium in 2003. This progressive move was a testament to Spain's rapid sociopolitical transformation, especially given its conservative past under the dictatorship of Franco.
The legislation not only granted same-sex couples the right to marry but also the right to adopt children. While the decision was met with considerable support from the public, it faced opposition from conservative groups and the Roman Catholic Church. Nevertheless, the bill passed in the Spanish Parliament with a majority of 187–147, taking effect three days later.
The conservative People's Party challenged the law in the Constitutional Court. However, the court upheld the legality of same-sex marriage in 2012 with a majority of 8–3, solidifying its place in Spanish society. Following its enactment, thousands of same-sex couples tied the knot in Spain, reflecting the nation's commitment to equality and LGBTQ+ rights.
Live 8 takes place around the world
Live 8, a series of benefit concerts, took place in cities around the world on 2nd July 2005. It had one unified aim: to promote global awareness about the need for aid in Africa.
Spearheaded by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, creators of the original Live Aid concerts in 1985, Live 8 was strategically timed to coincide with the G8 summit being held in Scotland. The goal was to pressure world leaders to commit to increasing aid, cancelling third-world debt, and promoting fair trade.
The concerts took place in 10 venues across the world, including London, Philadelphia, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Toronto, Johannesburg, Moscow, Tokyo, and Cornwall. An estimated 3 billion viewers watched the events, which featured a star-studded lineup of musicians including Paul McCartney, U2, Coldplay, Elton John, Madonna, and many others.
Beyond the music, Live 8 aimed to send a powerful message: more needed to be done to address the severe poverty and issues facing Africa. The G8 proceeded to cancel the debt of 18 of the world's poorest nations, make AIDS drugs more accessible, and double the annual aid for Africa to $50 billion.
Live 8 crowd along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia. Credit: Irteagle102704 at Wikipedia
Deep Impact collides its impactor device with comet 9P/Tempel
Deep Impact was a NASA-operated spacecraft designed to study the interior composition of comets. It was comprised of two sections. The larger was a flyby component with imaging devices, an infrared spectrometer, and cameras with both high and medium resolution. The impactor was the second piece, weighing in at around 370 kg (771 lb) and containing only a targeting sensor, the rest being mostly copper alloy.
The mission was to launch the impactor from the flyby module and position it to collide with comet 9P/Tempel. The flyby module would then study the composition of the ejected material, as well as the internal structure of the comet, visible through the resultant crater. This plan proved successful, with the impactor hitting the comet on 4th July 2005, with a force equivalent to 4.7 tons of TNT.
Many questions regarding these celestial bodies were answered as a result of the mission. The entire project from launch to collision gained considerable media attention which, thanks to its wealth of useful data, led NASA to consider Deep Impact one of its greatest modern successes. The flyby module was later put on an extended mission to study other comets of the inner Solar System.
USB flash drives replace floppy disks
By the middle of this decade, flash drives featuring the Universal Serial Bus (USB) interface had superseded the previously standard floppy disks. The latter had been in use since the mid-1970s, but now, along with CD-ROMs, were experiencing massive drops in commercial use – essentially becoming obsolete. USB drives were both smaller and faster, had vastly more data memory and a wider range of connectivity. Later in the decade, they would act as the standard flash drive for most computers and game consoles.
Suicide bombers in London kill 56 people, injure 700 others
The 7th July 2005 London bombings – known as 7/7 – were a series of coordinated suicide attacks on London's public transport system during the morning rush hour. The bombings were carried out by four British Muslim men, three of Pakistani and one of Jamaican descent.
At 08:50, three bombs exploded within 50 seconds of each other on three London Underground trains, a fourth exploding an hour later at 09:47 on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square. The explosions appear to have been caused by home-made organic peroxide-based devices, packed into rucksacks and detonated by the bombers themselves. Fifty-six people were killed, including the bombers, and around 700 were injured.
Credit: Adam Stacey (CC BY 2.5)
The IRA ends its armed campaign
In a historic milestone for peace, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) formally ended its 30-year armed campaign on 28th July 2005. This momentous decision came in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement, a landmark accord signed in 1998 that sought to bring an end to decades of sectarian violence.
Underscoring its commitment, the IRA not only declared a cessation of all military activities but also began decommissioning its weapons. This critical disarmament phase was carried out under the vigilant oversight of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, ensuring transparency and trust among all parties involved.
This became a pivotal turning point in relations between the United Kingdom and Ireland, marking a clear shift from violence to diplomacy in the quest for a harmonious future for Northern Ireland.
Hurricane Katrina floods New Orleans
Hurricane Katrina, of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, was the costliest – and one of the deadliest hurricanes – in the history of the United States. Of the recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it was sixth strongest overall.
Hurricane Katrina formed over the Bahamas on 23rd August 2005 and crossed southern Florida as a moderate Category 1 hurricane, causing some deaths and flooding there before strengthening rapidly in the Gulf of Mexico. The storm weakened before making its second landfall as a Category 3 storm on the morning of 29th August in southeast Louisiana. It caused severe destruction along the Gulf coast from central Florida to Texas, much of it due to the storm surge.
The most severe loss of life and property damage occurred in New Orleans, Louisiana, which flooded as the levee system catastrophically failed, in many cases hours after the storm had moved inland. Around 80% of the city and large tracts of neighbouring parishes became flooded, with floodwaters lingering for weeks.
At least 1,836 people lost their lives in the actual hurricane and in the subsequent floods, while preliminary damage estimates were in excess of $100 billion – eclipsing many times the damage wrought by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The levee failures prompted investigations into their design and construction. There was also an investigation of the responses from federal, state, and local governments. Years later, thousands of displaced residents in Mississippi and Louisiana were still living in trailers.
Baghdad bridge stampede
One of the deadliest crowd crushes in history occurred on 31st August 2005 in Baghdad, Iraq. At the time of the disaster, around one million pilgrims had gathered around or were marching toward Al Kadhimiya Mosque (pictured), the shrine of Shi'ite Imam Musa al-Kazim. Tensions had been high within the crowd. Earlier in the day, seven people had been killed and dozens more wounded in a mortar attack upon the assembled pilgrims, for which an insurgent group linked to Al-Qaeda had claimed responsibility.
Near the shrine, rumours of an imminent suicide bomb attack broke out, with a man accused of wearing an explosive belt on the nearby Al-Aimmah Bridge, triggering panic among the massed crowds. Hundreds of Shiite pilgrims were crushed in the ensuing chaos, while many more fell to their deaths or drowned as the stampede caused the bridge railings to give way. The final death toll came to 953, making it the fifth worst crowd crush in history at the time, until an even deadlier stampede in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in 2015.
Governments and world leaders offered their condolences after the catastrophe. UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, speaking on behalf of the EU and UK, holder of the EU presidency, said: "It is still not clear exactly what started the stampede which led to these hundreds of deaths and injuries. However, it is clear that the same crowd of Shia pilgrims, celebrating an important Shia religious festival, had earlier suffered a mortar attack... I condemn utterly this despicable act of terrorism against innocent civilians just as I condemn, too, those that continue to use violence and terror more widely in order to further their aims in Iraq. The depravity of these individuals who commit these acts of terrorism against their fellow Muslims sadly knows no bounds."
While the U.S. Department of State expressed its regret, the stampede received relatively little attention in the U.S. media, because it occurred just two days after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, the aftermath of which continued to dominate headlines.
Credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim, GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons
Muhammad cartoons controversy in Denmark
On 30th September 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 editorial cartoons, most of which depicted the Islamic prophet Muhammad, intended to provoke debate about criticism of Islam and self-censorship. However, because the portrayal of Prophet Muhammad, particularly in a satirical or illustrative manner, is considered highly blasphemous in many Islamic traditions, the publication drew sharp criticism both domestically and internationally.
The controversy did not erupt immediately but gained momentum over the next few months, as awareness of the cartoons spread. Protests started in Denmark and radiated outwards, engulfing many countries with significant Muslim populations. Demonstrations – some peaceful and others violent – occurred across the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and even in some Western countries. Embassies were burned, and boycotts on Danish goods were initiated. Riots led to hundreds of deaths and injuries.
Danish Prime Minister Anders Rasmussen described the controversy as Denmark's worst international relations crisis since the Second World War. It came at a time of heightened political and social tensions between Muslim majority countries and Western countries, following several high-profile radical Islamic terrorist attacks in the West – including 9/11 and 7/7 – as well as Western military interventions in Muslim countries, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Internationally, the Muhammad cartoons controversy spurred intense debate about the limits of freedom of speech, respect for religious sentiments, and the nature of intercultural understanding in a world of increasingly globalised communication.
Parisian protest against the cartoons of Muhammad. Credit: David Monniaux, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
7.6 magnitude earthquake hits Pakistan
On 8th October 2005, one of the most devastating natural disasters in recent history struck the Kashmir region. A massive earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6 shook northern Pakistan, wreaking havoc on towns, villages, and cities in its path. Centred near the city of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the tremors were felt as far away as India's capital, New Delhi, and parts of Afghanistan.
The scale of devastation was immense. Entire communities were reduced to rubble, with many of the affected areas located in remote and mountainous regions, making rescue and relief operations even more challenging. Over 86,000 lives were lost, with hundreds of thousands injured and millions more displaced from their homes. Hospitals, schools, and other vital infrastructure were destroyed, leaving survivors in dire need of medical attention, shelter, and basic necessities.
In the immediate aftermath, international aid poured into the region, as countries, global organisations, and NGOs rallied to support relief efforts. The disaster underscored the vulnerability of remote regions to seismic activity and highlighted the need for improved infrastructure and disaster preparedness in such areas.
Muzaffarabad after the 2005 Kashmir earthquake. Credit: Timothy Smith, U.S. Navy, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Angela Merkel becomes the first female Chancellor of Germany
Angela Merkel, leader of the Christian Democrats, became Germany's first woman chancellor on 22nd November 2005. Mrs Merkel, a conservative, headed a coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), who ruled before.
Two years later, she became President of the European Council and only the second woman to chair the G8 after Margaret Thatcher. She played a central role in the negotiation of the Treaty of Lisbon and Berlin Declaration.
In terms of domestic policy, healthcare reform and problems concerning future energy supplies became major issues of her tenure, which lasted for 16 years until December 2021.
Microsoft releases the Xbox 360
On 22nd November 2005, Microsoft unveiled the Xbox 360, marking a new era in video gaming. As the first of the seventh generation consoles, it would later compete with Sony's PS3 and the Nintendo Wii.
As successor to the original Xbox, the Xbox 360 boasted a major leap in graphics, rendering games in a level of detail and realism previously unseen on consoles. Microsoft also placed a renewed emphasis on multiplayer online experiences, bolstering the capabilities of Xbox Live, their online gaming service, which allowed players from across the globe to engage in cooperative and competitive gameplay seamlessly. The integration of social features, marketplace downloads, and game streaming further enriched the player experience.
Over its 11-year lifespan, the Xbox 360 underwent several revisions, both in terms of internal hardware and external design changes. The original launch offered two configurations: "Core" and a more expensive "Pro" version, the latter featuring a 20 GB hard drive (later expanded to 60GB). Support for the Kinect motion sensing device was added in 2010. A redesigned motherboard also fixed overheating and other hardware issues. By the time of its final iterations in 2013–2016, the console's storage had increased to 250 GB and its casing had a sleeker appearance. The Xbox 360 would be succeeded by the Xbox One in 2013.
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