NASA has relentlessly put out information about their crucial astronomical findings and missions throughout the year 2017, which has changed the human understanding of the Universe.
The scientists observed important events like the plunging of the Cassini probe to the Saturn's gaseous surface and the completion of 40 years of Voyager's probe. The year also witnessed the launch of several missions to study the solar system, its planets, and the universe. The asteroid visitors from within the solar system and from the interstellar space had created wider opportunities for the scientists to study them.
Some of the major discoveries and experiments during 2017 are listed below.
Cassini probe fell into the Saturn's atmosphere on September 15 after completion of 13 years of its expedition of the ringed planet.
The spacecraft had taken images of Saturn, its moon, and its mysterious ring during its mission. Cassini's study has helped to develop a better understanding of the planet and its moons. The mission has also discovered ocean under the icy crust of Saturn's moon Enceladus. Scientists believe that the Enceladus oceans might have conditions which support life.
NASA Voyager 1 and 2 missions have completed 40 years expedition through the most distant regions a human-made object has ever traveled.
The Voyager 1 has already reached the interstellar space beyond our solar system while the Voyager 2 moves through the Heliosheath, the outermost layer of the heliosphere which acts as the boundary of the solar system. The Solar wind in our Solar system slows down here and the pressure of interstellar gas becomes high.
NASA communicates with the duo interstellar satellites on a daily basis while the trajectories and other information is being updated within few minutes. The missions could improve any astronomer's knowledge about the interstellar space. The Voyagers had studied the Jupiter and Saturn, its moons and the Saturn ring during its expedition.
Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope
NASA' Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected the first light-linked gravitational-wave from the merger of two neutron stars on August 17 this year. The neutron star merger occurred in galaxy NGC 4993 which is located at 130 million years from the Earth. NASA's Swift, Hubble, Chandra and Spitzer and several other observatories captured the fading and glowing light from the expanding debris.
James Webb Space Telescope
James Webb Space Telescope which plans for its voyage to distant solar systems and galaxies has completed its crucial cryogenic testing in the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The experiments studied the functioning of the telescope's lenses and instruments in extremely cold conditions similar to the interstellar space. The mission which is planned to be launched in 2019 would study the origin of solar systems, galaxies, and other mysteries of the Universe.
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has discovered an exoplanet that "snows" sunscreen. The Kepler-13Ab located at a distance of 1,730 light years from the Earth in Kepler-13 system precipitates titanium oxide which appears as a sunscreen when viewed from the planets' permanent night-time side. One face of the planet always faces its star while the other side produces sunscreen.
Pan-STARRS1 telescope observed the first interstellar object which visited our Solar System on October 19. The object has been later found as an asteroid and named as Oumuamua meaning "a messenger from afar arriving first". It has been scientifically named 1I/2017 U1 and classified as the first interstellar asteroid ever observed. The asteroid was a rocky, cigar-shaped object with length to breadth ratio 10:1.
Astronomers around the world had observed and studied an asteroid named as 2012 TC4 which made a close pass by near the Earth. Sources say that these studies helped to gain a better knowledge of an asteroid as it would help to prevent any possible impact on the Earth. The scientists are developing defense mechanisms which could protect earth from any possible danger. The scientists had tested the International Asteroid Warning Network for hazardous asteroid observations, modeling, prediction, and communication to cope up with any situations of an asteroid impact.
NASA Juno mission which probes through the Jupiter has photographed the polar cyclones and storms in the complex, turbulent planet. The pictures sent by the mission has created a better understanding of the climatic patterns and various events of the gaseous planet.
NASA had successfully used its gravity to slingshot OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security- Regolith Explorer) towards asteroid Benny on September 22. The seven years journey to the asteroid is meant to return its samples to the Earth. The samples are believed to help scientists to understand the origin of the solar system. The spacecraft is believed to reach the asteroid in August 2018.
Parker Solar Probe
NASA has been developing a spacecraft to explore the Sun's outer atmosphere. It has been named after Eugene N. Parker, a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago. Scientists have completed acoustic and vibration tests of the vehicle in a simulated environment to check the functioning of its electronic parts. The space vehicle would be launched in 2018.