8 of the Biggest Science Stories to Watch Out for in 2015
Between telepathy technology, AI fear mongering, and an increased interest in spaceflight culminating in the sensational Philae landing, 2014 was an incredibly exciting year for science. But 2015 is shaping up to be equally or possibly even more exciting, both building on previous discoveries and making groundbreaking new ones. Here are eight of the flashiest anticipated scientific events of 2015:
1) Philae wakes up
Philae successfully became the first spacecraft to land on a comet this year, but then a few mishaps seemed to end the mission prematurely. Now, Rosetta scientists are claiming that Philae will likely wake up sometime next year as the comet approaches the sun, and provide further groundbreaking analysis of the environment on a comet.
2) Rendezvous with Ceres
NASA's Dawn spacecraft, which was the first craft to visit protoplanet Vesta, is currently exploring the asteroid belt. On March 6, 2015, Dawn is expected to be the first spacecraft to visit the asteroid Ceres. Signs of water vapor emissions were detected from Ceres early last year, so the exploration of the dwarf planet could be crucial to understanding planet habitability and potential extraterrestrial colonization.
3) First detailed images of Pluto
Due to its size and distance, even our best images of Pluto are nothing more than fuzzy gray smudges. That is set to change this year, as NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is set to complete its nine-year mission and take photos in unprecedented detail starting on January 15, with the closest approach set for July.
4) Possible confirmation of the Big Bang
Last year, BICEP 2 researchers believed that they had discovered gravitational waves, confirming the Big Bang theory. Peer review revealed that there were several flaws in their analysis, and what looked like the telltale ripples in spacetime might have just been space dust. The results are still up in the air, but more findings are expected to be released from BICEP 2 later this month and the scientific community as a whole will continue to investigate whether gravitational waves were actually found.
5) Steps towards an AIDS vaccine
[Credit: Salk Institute]
In October, microbiologists took a major step towards a potential cure for AIDS when they discovered that certain antibodies were able to attach to the HIV virus and neutralize it. As a result, many experts in medical technology are optimistic that 2015 could see major progress towards a vaccine.
"Personally, working in the HIV vaccine field for 16 years, I have never been so positive," said Rogier Sanders, a Cornell University microbiologist. "I think the coming year will see some major steps forward thanks to this."
6) The Large Hadron Collider turns back on
After a two-year nap, the LHC is set to wake up again in March, and it will reportedly be more potent than ever, with nearly twice the energy of its previous run. This next run could lead to a whole host of discoveries, but CERN scientists will likely be focusing on a definitive detection of dark energy and dark matter, at long last.
7) Two lunar eclipses
There will be two total lunar eclipses on April 4 and September 28, completing the tetrad that began in 2014. Most of the continent will be able to witness the amazing astronomical event for themselves, as well as the Pacific, east Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
8) Commercial spaceflight continues testing
NASA will continue to work with private companies, such as SpaceX and Orbital Science, in order to make commercial spaceflight a reality. SpaceX already has several missions planned to the International Space Station, and Orbital Science will launch its Cygnus spacecraft in its first rocket launch since the shocking Antares explosion, which saw $20 million worth of damage but no casualties.