Ever since humans looked up at the night sky 2.5 million years ago and the invention of the astronomical telescope by Galileo in 1609, almost all information we have gleaned about the universe has come to us in the form of electromagnetic radiation. Literally the entire spectrum — radio waves to gamma rays.
I say “almost all” because we have sent spacecraft to land on planets, comets and asteroids, obtained comet dust and sent humans to the moon. We have recovered over 50,000 meteorites — rocks from space — and specimens from the moon and Mars. All of this has added to our cosmic knowledge.
The detection of gravitational waves was made possible by finally developing the exquisite technology that enabled us to detect the physical warping of space-time by an event. A second event was announced in June 2016 and showed us that more events were going to come our way, that gravitational waves were not a “one and done” occurrence.
What lies ahead space-wise in 2017? NASA will get a new administrator, and we will see what that means for the country’s space program. There are a number of unmanned missions scheduled to go to the moon in 2017. Also, the U.S. will witness an eclipse of the sun on Aug. 21.
And once again, what we don’t know about in the upcoming space year will be the ultimate prize.
Have a safe and wonderful new year, and we’ll follow the universe together in 2017.