Because the universe is beautiful enough without having to lie about it

Looking Ahead to 2009 – Part 2

December 29th, 2008 Posted in Uncategorized

So this is the second in my 4-part series looking at what 2009 has in store. Today I’m focusing on physics and astronomy.

2008 was, of course, the year that the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, near Geneva, was suposed to destroy the world. In one of the most complex conspiracy theories ever to exist, some protesters tried to get a legal injunction on CERN from firing up the LHC because they believed that it might create a mini black hole which would destroy the world. Needless to say, CERN fired up, and all was OK. Though the giant collider, located underground across the French and Swiss border, never actually started colliding particles. Unfortunately, a failure of one of its cryogenic units shut it down until the middle of 2009 in an extremely expensive equipment failure. Still, the LHC promises to deliver in 2009, and that will make this new year surely the most exciting for physics for some time.

Of course, you can expect the conspiracy theorists back in force, despite the fact that collisions of the energy that we expect in the LHC happen all the time across the Universe, including in our own atmosphere. But never mind.

2009 also promises much for space exploration. Construction of the International Space Station will continue throughout the year. The Hubble Space Telescope should get a refit on May 12th, all going to plan.

There are, of course, many other missions underway. The Dawn mission will swin by Mars in February, on its way to investigate the asteroid Vesta some time in 2011.  The Herschel Space Observatory is the Eurpoean Space Agency (ESA)’s far infrared mission, due for launch in early 2009, observing star forming regions in long-wavelength light.  April will see the launch of the Planck satellite, another European mission –  this one designed to map the Cosmic Microwave Background. This is a follow up to the original COBE satellite.

The Kepler mission is designed to look for extra-solar planets and will launch some time in late 2009, along with the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), which will map the galaxy in long wavelengths, looking for star forming regions and distant high-redshift galaxies.

Of course, it’s not all space exploration. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory is designed to examine Earth itself and map concentrations of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere. Which brings me to the topic of tomorrow’s post – environmental issues. What will happen about climate change and global warming in 2009? Will we finally realise that we’re overfishing the oceans? What about genetically modified food? Will science continue to be repressed by angry hippies? More tomorrow, folks.

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