2017

2017 has just begun, it's a good time to share our predictions. What should we expect from 2017? What should we look forward to? What are your plans for 2017?
Ciro Villa (technologist, application developer, STEM communicator)

As technologies in the realm of machine intelligence and data analysis continues to advance, I expect that the results stemming from the amalgamation of additional astronomical information will spur more announcement and presentations of discoveries in the field of deep space astrophysics and cosmology with important new theoretical dissertations regarding the nature of dark matter and dark energy. Additionally, I anticipate further exciting discoveries in terms of exoplanets and subsequently an increase in the pool of confirmed exoplanets.

I believe one of, if not the most anticipated astronomical event for 2017 is the upcoming Total Solar Eclipse to occur on August 21. This eclipse will be of peculiar interest as it will be visible for a rather large swath of the continental United States, albeit comprising a relatively narrow “band” across a multitude of States.

As far as plans for the new year are to do my best to continue to inform and try to enthuse the public regarding anything related to space and space exploration, and, barring other life priorities, continue to divulgate valuable information, news and content on new and exciting progress and discoveries.

Antonio Paris (Astronaut Candidate, Astronomy Professor, Planetary Scientist, Space Science Author)

I suspect, as is the case for the past 10 years, that we will discover a variety of extrasolar planets. Of these discoveries, 1-2% will be cataloged as potentially Earth-like planets. The James Webb Telescope, moreover, will be reaching final completion and just like many of you, I anticipate new discoveries that will reshape the field of astronomy - and science.

Matthew Greenhouse (Astrophysicist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center working on James Webb Space Telescope)

The New Year will be an exciting one for NASA Astrophysics and the missions that I am involved in. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is in the final stages of testing ahead of its 2018 launch date. During this year, the international science community will submit their first proposals to use the JWST. Observing proposals for Early Release Science are due during August. The first call for General Observing proposals will occur during November 2017 with proposals due during March 2018.

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) began its primary operations phase during May 2014, and continues to provide the science community’s only general access to the far-infrared spectrum (which contains half of the light in the universe). A new science instrument, called HAWC+, enters fully commissioned service this year. This instrument provides far-infrared imaging polarimetry at unprecedented angular resolution providing a new window on the study of magnetic fields in space. The High Resolution Mid-Infrared Spectrometer (HIRMES) is in full development this year, and is expected to begin operations during early 2019. During spring of this year, NASA will solicit proposals for development of an additional science instrument and will issue the 6th call for general observing proposals to use SOFIA.

NASA continues to develop a vibrant capability to study exoplanets and to search for evidence of life on them via spectroscopy of their atmospheres. A key starshade technology development activity gets underway this year to ensure that the most promising technologies for characterization of Earth-like planets will be to ready for mission prioritization by the 2020 Decadal Survey.

A January 2017 snap shot of NASA Astrophysics plans and progress can be found here.

Mike Simmons (Founder and CEO of "Astronomers without Borders")

The big news in the US is the total solar eclipse that crosses the entire continent, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, in August of this year. But it's more than just a single-country event. This celestial event will be seen by more people than any other in history. People from countries around the world are coming to the US for this historic event.

Astronomers Without Borders will be supporting schools in underserved communities -- inner cities, Native American reservations, and more -- not only with resources for the eclipse but for continuing STEM education using the Sun after the inspirational experience of the eclipse. It's one of many efforts to get as many people as possible to view the eclipse, and to keep them looking up afterward.

Global Astronomy Month in April will be the biggest yet. There are new partners and new programs that we hope will engage even more participants around the world. SunDay -- a day for public outreach with the Sun -- will focus on the eclipse this year. There will be a new cultural program under the AstroArts banner. The Global Star Party will be the opening event on April 1. That's going to be a very exciting day when we can all observe and work together.

I'm sure there will be celestial surprises as well. That's part of the fun of astronomy. There are some wonderful events we know about but what surprise us? A bright comet, a bright nova, a large meteor strike? We'll have to wait and see.

January 2017: Books

It's time for a list of interesting astronomy and space related books that have their premiere in January. Click on the cover for more info.
January 17, 2017
"Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars", Nathalia Holt

In the 1940s and 50s, when the newly minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate velocities and plot trajectories, they didn't turn to male graduates. Rather, they recruited an elite group of young women who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design, helped bring about the first American satellites, and made the exploration of the solar system possible.

For the first time, Rise of the Rocket Girls tells the stories of these women--known as "human computers"--who broke the boundaries of both gender and science. Based on extensive research and interviews with all the living members of the team, Rise of the Rocket Girls offers a unique perspective on the role of women in science: both where we've been, and the far reaches of space to which we're heading.

January 24, 2017
"Amazing Stories of the Space Age: True Tales of Nazis in Orbit, Soldiers on the Moon, Orphaned Martian Robots, and Other Fascinating Accounts from the Annals of Spaceflight", Rod Pyle

Award-winning science writer and documentarian Rod Pyle presents an insider's perspective on the most unusual and bizarre space missions ever devised inside and outside of NASA. The incredible projects described here were not merely flights of fancy dreamed up by space enthusiasts, but actual missions planned by leading aeronautical engineers. Some were designed but not built; others were built but not flown; and a few were flown to failure but little reported:

A giant rocket that would use atomic bombs as propulsion (never mind the fallout), military bases on the moon that could target enemies on earth with nuclear weapons, a scheme to spray-paint the lenses of Soviet spy satellites in space, the rushed Soyuz 1 spacecraft that ended with the death of its pilot, the near-disaster of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the mysterious Russian space shuttle that flew only once and was then scrapped--these are just some of the unbelievable tales that Pyle has found in once top-secret documents as well as accounts that were simply lost for many decades.

These stories, complimented by many rarely-seen photos and illustrations, tell of a time when nothing was too off-the-wall to be taken seriously, and the race to the moon and the threat from the Soviet Union trumped all other considerations. Readers will be fascinated, amused, and sometimes chilled.

January 25, 2017.
"The Pillars of Creation: Giant Molecular Clouds, Star Formation, and Cosmic Recycling", Martin Beech

This book explores the mechanics of star formation, the process by which matter pulls together and creates new structures. Written for science enthusiasts, the author presents an accessible explanation of how stars are born from the interstellar medium and giant molecular clouds. Stars produce the chemicals that lead to life, and it is they that have enabled the conditions for planets to form and life to emerge.

Although the Big Bang provided the spark of initiation, the primordial universe that it sired was born hopelessly sterile. It is only through the continued recycling of the interstellar medium, star formation, and stellar evolution that the universe has been animated beyond a chaotic mess of elementary atomic particles, radiation, dark matter, dark energy, and expanding spacetime. Using the Milky Way and the Eagle Nebula in particular as case studies, Beech follows every step of this amazing process.

January 27, 2017
"Gravity's Kiss: The Detection of Gravitational Waves", Harry Collins

Scientists have been trying to confirm the existence of gravitational waves for fifty years. Then, in September 2015, came a "very interesting event" (as the cautious subject line in a physicist's email read) that proved to be the first detection of gravitational waves. In Gravity's Kiss, Harry Collins -- who has been watching the science of gravitational wave detection for forty-three of those fifty years and has written three previous books about it -- offers a final, fascinating account, written in real time, of the unfolding of one of the most remarkable scientific discoveries ever made.

Predicted by Einstein in his theory of general relativity, gravitational waves carry energy from the collision or explosion of stars. Dying binary stars, for example, rotate faster and faster around each other until they merge, emitting a burst of gravitational waves. It is only with the development of extraordinarily sensitive, highly sophisticated detectors that physicists can now confirm Einstein's prediction. This is the story that Collins tells.

January 2017: Astronomy & Space on paper

Looking for something to read in January? Quick check on what's in store for this month in astronomy magazines.  

Astronomy, topics:

  • Top 10 space stories of 2016
  • The final days of Cassini
  • Ask Astro
  • The Sky This Month
  • StarDome and Path of Planets
  • Sizing up planetary nebulae
  • Is telescope making a lost art?
  • Two imagers are better than one
  • Starmus III: A tribute to Stephen Hawking

SkyNews, topics: 

  • Top 10 Sky Sights For 2017
  • The World Next Door
  • Splendid Winter Double Stars
  • On the Moon: A Blue-Sky Moon
  • Scoping the Sky: Castor Puts His Best Foot Forward
  • Cosmic Musings: A Celestial Eye Chart
  • Capturing The Universe: Tools and Rules For Getting the Right Exposure
  • Exploring the Night Sky: Venus Lights the Evening Sky
  • Editor’s Report: Manual Mayhem
  • Constellation Corner: Lepus

Sky at Night, topics:

  • 25 Years of Exoplanets
  • Tim Peake
  • Missions of the Future
  • The Ashen Light
  • Reviews: Vixen A62SS 2.5-inch achromatic refractor, iOptron SkyTracker Pro DSLR camera mount, ZWO ASI290MM cooled monochrome CMOS camera
  • Stellar spectral classifications
  • How to make an automated flat panel and dust cap
  • Image processing - registering images in DeepSkyStacker
  • Monthly Bulletin, all the latest astronomical news, Cutting Edge revealing the highlights from brand new research
  • January Sky Guide featuring the Quadrantids meteor shower, Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova, an all-sky chart, a deep-sky tour
  • Our Scope Doctor answers your technical kit questions
  • Interactive: your letters, tweets, forum posts and readers’ scopes
  • Gear
  • What’s On listings
  • Hotshots
  • Beautiful new images from space in Eye on the Sky
  • The latest astronomy books reviewed

Popular Astronomy, topics:

  • The jewels of Perseus Martin Griffiths
  • The origins of popular astronomy Allan Chapman
  • A day in the life of a radio astronomer Megan Argo
  • Is Proxima b habitable?
  • Q&A with Chris Lintott
  • Telescope Topics
  • Amateur Scene
  • Citizen Science
  • Young Stargazers
  • Space Exploration
  • Book Reviews
  • Section Reports
  • The Society Pages
  • Sky Diary

How to win Nancy Atkinson’s book

10 people have the chance to win Nancy Atkinson's book "The Incredible Stories From Space: A Behind the Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos".

For your chance to win a free copy of the book you need to enter a giveaway competition at Goodreads -https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/216146-the-incredible-stories-from-space-a-behind-the-scenes-look-at-the-missi

Competition ends on Jan 20, 2017