I read a lot of news and I found myself thinking quite a few times this year, I’m glad I didn’t have to cover that! There were some notable expectations though, some stories that I found fascinating and inspiring and something I would have loved to cover, but didn’t.
They have a theme: Space!
Maybe it was because 2020 on Earth was so miserable, but I found myself drawn to the news stories and coverage of a bunch of space news this year. If you haven’t been paying attention it would be easy to miss, but this was a pretty big year for space.
We saw the return of human spaceflight to American shores when astronauts flew two missions to the International Space Station on SpaceX rockets.
That same company has been hard at work on their next generation super heavy lift rocket called Starship. If you want to fall down a Youtube rabbit-hole, you can watch daily updates on every little piece of progress they make. They’re essentially building the thing outside in public view.
Earlier this month, they flew the prototype rocket to 12.5 kilometers and very nearly landed it on their first attempt. It was a really successful test and I enjoyed the explosive end. It’s worth watching the full video if you haven’t seen it.
Maybe the most exciting news, for me, came in September when a team of researchers announced they had found phosphine gas in the clouds of Venus in a concentration that meant it could be a marker of microbial alien life.
I always find these little hints and clues that tease that maybe there’s some little germs out there in other parts of the solar system fascinating. From methane on Mars to organic molecules in the plumes of Ganymede, it’s amazing to watch the slow methodical scientific process move forward.
Now the amount of phosphine detected on Venus has been reanalyzed and shown less of the gas than originally announced. I was a little bummed to hear it, but it still doesn’t mean there definitely aren’t little green microbes floating around. We’ll just have to wait and see.
But, maybe you don’t find microscopic aliens all that interesting. How about ones that talk?
Just this month Breakthrough Listen, “The largest ever scientific research program aimed at finding evidence of civilizations beyond Earth,” announced its first candidate BLC1. It’s weird.
When studying solar flares from Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the sun, a research team detected a narrow band radio signal that seemed to be coming from that star system. Narrow band signals aren’t caused by nature. The team ran several tests to see if the signal was a false positive coming from a human produced signal on or around Earth. So far it’s passed those tests.
The researchers are still working and say this signal is almost certainly interference from a human source. They just haven’t been able to figure out what is causing it. Still, wouldn’t a message from E.T. be a fitting end to 2020?