Nominations: The Universe Today Top 10 Scientific Endeavours of 2008

2008 has been a landmark year for space science and physics endeavour. We’ve peered deep into the cosmos and fitted new pieces into some of the most intriguing universal puzzles. We’ve explored other planets with technology we wouldn’t have recognised a decade ago. We’ve assembled some of the most complex experiments to test theories of the very small and the very big. 2008 has built strong foundations for the future of the exploration of the Universe in so many ways…

This week, Time Magazine published the top 10 “Scientific Discoveries” of 2008. Technically, as many readers pointed out, a few of the entries are not “discoveries”, they are “achievements”. Although this might have been the case, space exploration and physics dominated, with the #1 slot going to the LHC and #2 slot going to the Phoenix Mars Lander (#4 and #6 went to the Chinese spacewalk and exoplanets respectively). After reading the superb suggestion put forward by Astrofiend (thanks!), it was the push I needed to want to create a Universe Today version of a “Top 10” for 2008 (I’d love to do a top 20, but I have to find some time for Christmas shopping).

This top ten will focus on the last 12 months of Universe Today articles, so take a journey through the year’s events in space science and physics to find your favourite scientific endeavour of 2008. If you can’t find the article, just leave the name of the specific endeavour and we’ll do the rest. Please leave all nominations in the comments box below…

You have one week to get your nominations in (so your deadline is December 19th), and I’ll compile the list of winners hopefully in time for Christmas. The nominations will be considered not only according to popularity, but also chosen by your unbiased Universe Today team…

So, get nominating! You have 7 days…

33 Replies to “Nominations: The Universe Today Top 10 Scientific Endeavours of 2008”

  1. The actual imaging of exoplanets; Phoenix. The LHC isn’t even on line, yet, maybe next year . . .

  2. I think Phoenix is a good number 1, but really they pulled off a hat trick with ALL of the martian probes this year.
    Using two other probes to track Phoenix on entry while continuing their previous observation missions was damn impressive. Then we got two old buggies are still chugging along despite the hardships of martian exploration.

    SpaceX and armadillo would also rate high on my list. Granted its more engineering than science, and these systems are far from perfect… but you have to applaud their persistence.

    Its the kind of spirit that’s desperately needed in space exploration these days.

  3. Exoplanet images.
    Fusion power progress.
    E-drive ,the microwave reactioless drive.
    Canadian under ice robot exploration devices.
    Wind powered hydrogen manufacture for vehical fuel.
    Freezing ,reversing, speeding up , manipulation of light ,in laser optics.
    The spread of space exploration to India and China etc.
    The building of the Hadron Collider.
    Further discoveries about life existing deep under ground on (in) earth.
    Popularisation of the exploration of our solar system via pictures from Mars ,Mercury, Saturn and the moons of Jupiter and the Plutoids etc.

  4. Definitely Phoenix!!! Its amazing landing on Mars, its discoveries all all the incredible collaboration with the other Mars probes operating nearby!!

  5. Bill G. wrote: “It’s got to be Phoenix discovering water ice.”

    We’ve already known that water ice exists on Mars. Phoenix was the first probe to scoop it up and analyse it though.

  6. In no particular order:
    the work Phoenix did on Mars
    Cassini’s discoveries around Enceladus and Saturn
    the discoveries about the Epsilon Eridani System (Spock’s Home World)

    hopefully, next year the LHC will be on the list with some groundbreaking “stuff”.

  7. actually, I’m adding the LHC to my list of nominations – it’s about “endeavours”, rather than “discoveries”, right….

  8. Hanny’s Voorwerp from Galaxy Zoo 1

    The fact that an average person (like you and I) who are interested in science and the world around us can contribute to todays science by using the world wide web as a laboratory, to identify and discover stuff of scientific interest that was previous unknown wins it for me.

  9. Yeah, most definitely the pictures of exoplanets. That pretty much topples everything else.

    Still, other impressive achievements were the imagining of Phoenix’s descent into Mars, lots and lots of new developments in Mars science by Mars Reconaissance Orbiter, Phoenix and Mars Express, particularly anything having to do with past and present water and ice presence on the planet (an ongoing research of great impact, which highlights a major limitation in these yearly lists: some don’t get easily confined in a year), the two flybys of Mercury by Messenger, and the Enceladus flybys by Cassini.

    Yeah, I’m partial to planetary stuff…

  10. Dittos to exoplanets, Phoenix discovering (confirming) water ice on Mars, and close ups of the geysers on Enceladus.

    To add a few… Wasn’t that earlier this year that they showed the avalanches on Mars? I think determining the mass and location of the SMBH at the center of our galaxy is significant. Oh oh oh – and the cosmic flow was a huge discovery.

    I also want to cast a negative vote (-1) for the LHC to count against and cancel out a vote for the LHC. That thing doesn’t even work yet. And I don’t think it will make any fundamental discoveries when it does start working.

  11. Jutst a few.
    Yes to all the above, but add:
    Mercury Flyby to nearly map that globe
    16 year study of the stars orbiting the Milky Way’s SMBH
    That Marine written about by Nancy who say’s they’re ready for a one-way trip to Mars – That’s like wow.

    I’ll pur through the articles this weekend for more.

  12. I’m with Steven on this one, definitely Hanny’s Voorwerp is surely top ten worthy, given it’s specific astronomical value but also showing what’s possible in a pro-am scientific collaboration.

  13. I want to reiterate my earlier suggestion because I don’t yet see any concurrence. Scientists, earlier this year, discovered that space is expanding at variable rates. That suggests something profound and new about the universe. The best discoveries are the ones you don’t expect.

  14. It has to be Phoenix – an absolutely superb and brilliant achievement. In second place I would place the images of the exoplanets.

  15. What about that radiation shield thing that scientists have invented. That has got to be high up as it will allow us to go further from the earth without the worry of solar radiation.
    Talk about bringing star trek to life deflector shields will be next 🙂

  16. “Clan Chattan Says:

    E-drive ,the microwave reactioless drive.”
    To correct – Em-drive.
    The idea seems not new:
    http://www.shelleys.demon.co.uk/fdec02em.htm
    and by many is considered to be a plain scam.
    But anyway if anything like this were possible to be constructed it would be great.
    I vote for:
    Exoplanets images,
    Mercury images,
    Enceladus geysers,
    cosmic flow,
    Phoenix lander,
    Galaxy Zoo project

  17. Oh dear – now you’ve forced me to spend the day looking through UT archives as opposed to actually working.

    OK, here it is. I’ve gone back and read every single article and comment for the past year. This list is definitive; if you disagree with it you are wrong.

    OK, first of all the number 1! This is probably the most significant thing that has been achieved in astronomy in a long time. It is so awesome that there is simply no argument possible:

    1) May – Astronomers fortuitously catch start of supernova explosion by detecting x-ray flash from shock breakout.

    There it is – the best moment of 2008. Here are the rest:

    2) Nov 13 exoplanet imaging articles
    3) Phoenix lands successfully and goes on to kick some arse
    4) LHC circulates protons, then eats it.
    5) March – HIRISE images Martian landslide directly
    6) Space shuttle/constellation dramas
    7) November 3rd Tevatron possible discovery
    8) Cassini’s 25km altitude ‘Skeet shot’ of Enceladus
    9) Hubble going belly up, then gets fixed
    10) Messenger flybys of Mercury
    11) Japan and India make their bids for the moon
    12) Sept 6th solar physicists image transition region w/ sounding rocket
    13) GLAST becomes Fermi, commences making awesome discoveries.
    14) July 30 Spectral analysis confirming detection of Ethane lakes on Titan
    15) July 21 NASA use cadavers to test Orion crew module
    16) Large scale ice shelf break-ups in both Northern and Southern Polar regions
    17) Ulysses mission ends
    18) Spitzer’s grand image, June 3rd
    19) May – Hydroxyl detected in Venus atmosphere
    20) Soyuz hard landing
    21) Arthur C Clarke dies – march
    22) Feb 11 Light echo technique used to accurately measure distance to star

    So there it is. 22 of the most awesome stories ever to rock your world – go back and check ‘em out. Can’t wait for this year’s surprises!

  18. Thanks Spacerious, em -drive it is . Just watch for the car manufacturers churning out flying taxi- cabs next instead of gas guzzlers!

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