Wow, 2016 was an ever-eventful year. I want to share with you what awed and delighted me the most… and what did not.
My #1 delight of the year was: It was a five-year journey to our solar system’s gigantic planet of Jupiter, but NASA’s Juno spacecraft stunned us by nailing it right on time! To celebrate its accomplishment, Juno entered Jupiter’s orbit on U.S’s independence day–July 4th. Juno will probe beneath the obscuring clouds of Jupiter for the first time and study its auroras. I was in awe as I watched this event in real time online–along with the scientists at NASA–the tension in the room was palpable and so was the sheer joy of Juno’s unbelievable performance seen in this AWESOME VIDEO:
The returning data and images of Jupiter to Earth will keep scientists busy for many years. What will we learn about Jupiter’s origin and what will it mean for Earth? Jupiter already sucks up monumental space junk so that it does not slam into us, what else will we learn about our friend?
This is why I love King Jupiter so much: Earth is a nice place to live precisely because of Jupiter’s overbearing gravity. It acts as a super-sized gravitational shield to planet earth. It keeps incoming space junk, like comets, away from our inner solar system. Just think about what that asteroid did to the dinosaurs 65 million years ago!
The whole world was watching when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 fell apart and its pieces crashed into Jupiter in 1994, leaving Earth-size scars that lasted a year. That’s Jupiter doing its cosmic job–better it than us!
It was high time we visit our fearless BIG, BIG-brother whom protects us from many spooky cosmic thugs–hip, hip hooray to NASA for this in 2016!
My #2 delight of the year was: Another NASA launch, which happened on Sept. 8 that could revolutionize our understanding of the early solar system. This one is the FIRST asteroid sampling mission called the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx). The spacecraft (with the very un-sexy name) is designed to reach the asteroid Bennu in August 2018, and then return a sample of it to Earth in 2023.
Why should we care about Bennu? Bennu was selected from over 500,000 known asteroids by NASA’s selection committee. It was chosen due to its close proximity to Earth, the low Δv required to reach it, an orbit with low eccentricity, low inclination, an ideal orbital radius, and it has loose dirt on its surface. Asteroids smaller than this typically spin too fast to retain dust or small particles.
Whittling down from 500,000 to only 5 asteroids: Finally, a desire to find an asteroid with pristine carbon material from the early solar system, possibly including volatile molecules, organic compounds and amino acids reduced the list further to just five asteroids. Ultimately Bennu was selected between these five due to its potentially hazardous orbital impact to Earth. So YES Bennu is one special asteroid! Very COOL NASA VIDEO follows this journey:
My #3 delight of the year was: NASA in 2016 formally started an astrophysics mission designed to help unlock the secrets of the universe. Called the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), it will aid researchers in their efforts to understand–by far the biggest secrets of all–dark energy and dark matter.
WFIRST will also discover new worlds outside our solar system– known as exoplanets. This is because NASA is STILL searching for another planet like earth, which could be suitable for life. Will they ever find it is the question–they have verified 1,284 exoplanets to date–none of which are the least bit hospitable. This artist’s concept depicts select planetary discoveries made to date by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. Credits: NASA/W. Stenzel
Regardless of absolutely no success to date to find an earth look-alike, NASA scientists won’t give up searching for life outside our solar system. They analyzed the Kepler space telescope’s “planet candidate catalog” and identified 4,302 potential planets to investigate. You go NASA–if they find one it will be the greatest discovery in all of the history of mankind!
Those are my top 3 WOW things to happen in 2016. NASA is by far the coolest government agency in the USA. Not only do they explore the galaxy and probe the heavens, they develop innovative technology and collect data on climate change. NASA has put a man on the moon and helped launch the collaborative International Space Station. Their mission is WOW: To “reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind,” and so far they are doing a stellar job.
What’s on top of my list for the lousiest of 2016? The death of facts: Regardless of your political affiliation, I think we can all agree that politicians have thrown out “facts” in favor of who can spread “delusions” or straight out lies the most effectively. The worst U.S. political election process I’ve ever witnessed in my years, my mom agrees and she is 88 years old. We can only hope an election that yucky is never repeated again here or anywhere!
Second on my list of not so great: 2016 saw the ranks in rock ‘n’ roll heaven quickly swell, as David Bowie, who died at 69 after a secretive 18-month battle with cancer, had just released Blackstar, the album that would serve as his final LP; Keith Emerson, the outsized co-founding keyboardist in Emerson Lake and Palmer, committed suicide at 71 in March; Leonard Cohen, one of the most acclaimed songwriters of the rock era, died in November at the age of 82. He had just released You Want It Darker, the 14th album in a career; Prince, whose full name was Prince Rogers Nelson, died April 21 at age 57, after being found unresponsive in an elevator at Paisley Park, his home and recording studio in Minnesota; And British superstar George Michael was found dead in bed on Christmas day–just to name a few. RIP rockers, we LOVE you and the music you created!
Third on my list of not so great? America is deeply, deeply divided about serious issues–and certainly about what kind of leader(s) we need. Who will help us to find common ground? If you live here you know what I am talking about. For the first time since I can remember I’m looking at 2017 with more consternation than hope… but I still have hope. Yes by these three shall I abide: Faith, Hope and Love. I end this 2016 reflection with–the greatest of these three is Love. God bless you all!
Thank you for reading my post. I am a writer and consultant living in the mountains of Santa Fe, New Mexico with my husband and dogs. My core message of everyone is creative resonates with people of all ages and walks of life. I invite all to become the best version of themselves and find true meaning by pursing long term creative quests.