Well, there goes 2012. It was an interesting year, sure. But past is past, and now it’s time to wonder what 2013 will bring us. Here’s what we have to look forward to:
1. India will launch a Mars probe
In November 2013, India will hopefully launch their Mangalyaan mission, sending an orbiter to everyone’s favorite Red Planet.
This will, of course, be their first mission to Mars, and it’s essentially what’s called a “technology demonstrator,” a mission designed to develop the necessary technologies for the “design, planning, management and operations of an interplanetary mission.”
2. We’ll reach the Solar Maximum
It’s all come down to this. In 2013, we’ll finally see the true power of our Sun’s fully armed and operational Solar Maximum.
Apparently, scientists are on “high alert.” While we’ve seen a ton of powerful solar flares this year — including several X-class flares — those may have just been warm-ups. What follows may have “catastrophic effects” on power grids and other electronic systems.
“According to scientists, if the Earth is hit by a major solar flare during the solar maximum it could result in widespread power outage, ground air traffic, disable military and civilian satellite communications.”
What can we do? Sit and watch. As usual.
3. Comet Ison will outshine the moon
If it survives its long and wary voyage, next Fall comet Ison may outshine the moon, giving astronomers around the world one of the most incredible cosmic light shows “in generations.”
It may not, though; as it approaches the Sun, even a fair distance away, its ice and rock exterior may crumble to bits, leaving an excited community of stargazers left hanging, once again.
4. We’ll discover an “Alien Earth”
Last year, we witnessed the discovery of a number of new alien worlds, courtesy the Kepler Space Telescope, including planets residing in “habitable zones,” which could potentially support life.
Now, given that the number of those discovered planets is only going to increase, scientists are calling it: next year, in 2013, we’ll finally locate an “Alien Earth.”
“The first planet with a measured size, orbit and incident stellar flux that is suitable for life is likely to be announced in 2013…”
– Geoff Marcy, member of Kepler team
This isn’t a guarantee, of course, but the odds are in our favor. If it does happen, the “Alien Earth” is also likely to be discovered by Kepler. So, keep your eyes open.
5. We’re all going to die!
Well, maybe not. In February 2013, the 130,000 tonne Asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass between the Earth and our satellites, and will actually be under Earth’s gravitational influence. It’ll be the closest observed asteroid in “recorded history.”
It won’t hit us, but there is a small chance it will strike some time between 2026 and 2069.
Excited yet? I am!
Images courtesy NASA/GSFC/STEREO, NASA, ESA.