Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Space.com has an overview here of what 2009 has brought us in astronomy that is worth reading as a recap of just how much happened this year. Of the nine milestones given there the most important are probably #6, #4, and #1, namely all the space telescopes launched this year (Kepler, Herschel, Planck, and WISE), the discovery of the first rocky planet in another solar system, and of course the discovery of water on the Moon, both in the soil all over the surface (though in much stronger concentrations as one moves towards the poles) and water ice hidden in the permanently shadowed craters right at the poles.
2010 may will turn out to be a momentous year before it is even half over: if we are lucky then Kepler will announce the discovery of the first Earth-like planets (around a red dwarf or other small star) at the American Astronomical Meeting in early January, and WISE may even discover a brown dwarf nearer to our own sun than Alpha Centauri. WISE is just about ready to pop off the cover and begin its first observations one month later, and since WISE does not require three observations to confirm a discovery as Kepler does it may announce the discovery of something interesting very soon...along with thousands of asteroids as well that we have never been fortunate enough to notice without its help.