Happy new year, everyone. Here’s hoping that 2009 will be a good year for all of us!
2009 is the International Year of Astronomy, International Year of Natural Fibres and International Year of Reconcilliation — so if you were to turn up to an astronomy conference wearing hemp clothing and you forgave the IAU for demoting Pluto, you’d be participating in all 3!
But silliness aside, there’s much set to happen in 2009.
In space, February sees NASA’s Dawn probe flyby Mars en route to the asteroids, Vesta and Ceres. NASA’s Kepler mission launches on March 5th to continue the hunt for exoplanets. April 24th will see the launch of NASA’s Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter. The MESSENGER probe will have another flyby of Mercury on September 29th, before settling into a Mercury orbit sometime in March 2011. There are also plans for the RFSA to launch a sample return mission to Phobos, and the KEO satellite time capsule sometime in 2009.
It’s set to be a good year for astronomy research with a final Hubble servicing mission planned for May, making it one of the most advanced instruments in space, once again. What’s more, the NASA WISE mission is set for launch in November to scan and catalog the sky in Infrared in even greater detail than ever before.
In manned spaceflight, a number of upgrades are planned for the International Space Station, in February, May, July and December. NASA is set to test the launch vehicle for the new Constellation programme in July too.
There’s also a chance this might be a good year for the rapidly progressing space tourist industry, with the completion of Virgin Galactic’s spaceport in New Mexico, and the planed first flight of the SpaceX Dragon orbital spacecraft.
Meanwhile, down on Earth there are two solar eclipses this year; an annular eclipse on January 26th and a total eclipse on July 22nd. What’s more, many telescopes are likely to be pointed at the three conjunctions between Jupiter and Neptune — on May 25th, July 13th and December 20th.
What’s more, being the International Year of Astronomy, there are a host of plans for all manner of interesting events, such as The 100 Hours of Astronomy and the podcasts, 365 Days of Astronomy (which seemingly the entire astronomical blogosphere has been buzzing about). I’m tempted to do a cast myself, seeing as submissions are open to all. I was thinking Diffuse Interstellar Bands, Astromineralogy or Astrochemistry in general…
On a more personal note, my New year’s resolutions this year are simple.
Be a good student, be a good scientist, play more guitar, do more poi.