Happy new year! 

It's early, but hopefully 2018 has been good to you so far.

Looking back, the year 2017 was a fantastic time for astronomy — headlined, of course, by the solar eclipse in August. It truly was a nationwide phenomenon, with people all over the country, young and old, famous and not, donning a pair of eclipse shades and watching the show high up in the heavens. 

Such a thing probably won't happen again till 2024, the date of the next total solar eclipse crossing America.

2017 was chock-full of lots of other good astronomy stuff, too. There was the Juno spacecraft, which gave us views of Jupiter that we've never seen before. Of course, there was Cassini, which bid adieu with a dive into Saturn, ending the long but very productive mission. 

There was continued study on the mysteriously-dimming star, KIC 8462852, or Tabby's Star. It looks currently that the theory of a Dyson sphere — or alien "megastructure" — is unlikely. Of course, it was unlikely to begin with. But there is still a lot of study left to do.

What else? 

For one, astronomers came to believe that there is a planet larger than Earth lurking somewhere very, very far away from the sun. Astronomers have tentatively named it Planet Nine, and searches are underway to find the ninth planet (10th, if you count Pluto) in our solar system. 

And then of course, ending the year there was Oumuamua, a cylindrical asteroid that swept into our solar system from — well, somewhere beyond our solar system. Some astronomers, thinking it was possibly a ship built by intelligent beings, tried to find signals coming from it, but no such luck.

Those are just the highlights; there were probably many other things that missed this list. 

As for the new year, hopefully a lot of good stuff happens in these next 365 days. 

Some cool things would include:

• Discovering a solar system, similar to ours, with more than eight planets: According to NASA, the only other solar system besides ours known to have eight planets is the Kepler-90 system. Unfortunately, the planets are scrunched together much closer than they our in our solar system, making the possibility of life as we know it remote, or, at least, less likely. The Kepler mission has confirmed more than 2,300 planets with almost 4,500 identified as candidates. Which leads me to ...

• Some sort of "pre-confirmation" of life existing somewhere: We probably don't yet have the technology up and running to scan a planet and definitively determine whether life exists there or not. However, perhaps we use one of the tools available to us and identify the trifecta of nitrogen, oxygen and ozone. That would be pretty darn thrilling.

• Discovering more about Jupiter: What hides underneath the giant planet's surface? How does the Great Red Spot really work? There is so much discover — and some surprises, I'll wager — when it comes to one of the most mysterious planets in our solar system.

• Getting the governments of the world to reveal what they really know about UFOs ... just kidding. As I've said before, I don't believe in some big coverup by officials around the world. Aliens may have already visited this planet, or they may never have been here. There are a lot of mysterious things that go on on this planet that I believe we haven't even begun to understand yet.

Have a prosperous 2018, and let's all hope some interesting things happen. I guarantee you they will.

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Entertainment Editor Joe Malan writes an astronomy column for the News & Eagle. He can be reached at jmalan@enidnews.com.


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