Looking Back and Looking Forward
20 December 20072007 has been another year of scientific discovery. Every one of the science missions in operation has produced new results in many fields of astronomy.
Ulysses made its third pass over the south pole, and will pass the north pole again in 2008. Ulysses has now made observations throughout the entire 11-year solar cycle and well into the 22-year Hale cycle and the associated reversal of the solar magnetic field.
Although 2007 saw the loss of one of the Double Star spacecraft, the results of combined observations with Cluster is continuing to reveal more information about the nature and impact of the magnetic fields around the Earth.
In 2008 ...
2008 will see the launch of the Herschel-Planck mission.
Herschel is an infrared observatory and contains the largest mirror ever flown in space. One of the primary goals of the mission is to look back into the era of galaxy formation and help astronomers understand how galaxies have evolved. Other goals include: investigations into the formation of stars by using infrared to peer through the cool dust clouds which surround protostars; observing the chemical composition of the atmospheres and surfaces of comets, planets and satellites; and to investigate the molecular chemistry of the universe.
Planck will map the Cosmic Microwave Background, the remnant afterglow of the big bang, at improved sensitivity and angular resolution. The observation will help scientists tackle the most fundamental questions: how did the universe begin, how did it evolve into its current state and how will it evolve in the future.
In addition Cosmic Vision programme, the selection of the next generation of science missions, will continue. 2007 saw an initial selection of 8 missions for further study. The initial assessment of those missons will be concluded early in 2008 before more detailed studies are carried over the course of the year.