No, I’ve not gone into the predictions business. But there are some fantastic firsts coming up in 2015 that will provide a fascinating insight into how our solar system is put together and give us views on things we’ve never seen before.
In March (specially arranged by NASA to coincide with my birthday…) the Dawn spacecraft will settle into orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres. Ceres is the largest asteroid in the asteroid belt that spans the region between Mars and Jupiter. This mission will supply the first ever close up pictures of the asteroid and will no doubt provide a raft of useful data. Ceres featured heavily in much classic science fiction (Asimov’s “The Dying Night” Wendell Urth mystery and “Podkayne of Mars” by Heinlein to name just two examples). And to further spice up the Ceres legacy, as if it really needs it, there’s even a chance of finding life there..
Continuing on the dwarf planet theme, in July (neatly timed to coincide with my wife’s birthday…) the New Horizons probe will enter orbit around Pluto, again providing the first close-up view of that remote planet and it’s moon, Charon. Although Pluto was recently demoted in stature to a dwarf planet, I still find it hard to think of it like that. Again mentioned frequently in science fiction such as Heinlein’s “Have Space Suit Will Travel” and “Icehenge” by Kin Stanley Robinson and regardless of it’s official status, this icy world at the edge of the solar system will soon be laid bare for us to see in detail.
At the other end of the scientific scale the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will restart in March after a pause of two years. During this time, work has been completed to achieve double the energy levels it had previously. With collisions now possible at an immense thirteen trillion electronvolts, there will be opportunity to examine the new Higgs more closely, as well as search for other exotic subatomic particles. This research could confirm the standard picture of the universe or blow it out of the water completely.
With all that going on and much more, 2015 looks like it will be a bumper year for science!