10 science headlines that captivated audiences in 2017
By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
Share this article:
People from around the world looked to the sky this year in the name of science, whether it be to watch a total solar eclipse or to ponder if life may exist on newly-discovered planets light years away from Earth.
From new records in human spaceflight to discoveries of distant worlds, here are 10 memorable science stories that made headlines in 2017:
President Trump announces US withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement
On June 1, President Donald Trump announced that the United States will be withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, a climate treaty that was ratified on Nov. 4, 2016.
Every country in the world has signed the agreement to limit global temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. The United States will become the only country in the world that is not a part of the agreement.
First images from GOES-16
NOAA’s first of a new generation of weather satellites captured its first high-resolution images of the planet on Jan. 15, 2017.
The weather satellite spent the year capturing incredible images of snowstorms, thunderstorms and hurricanes and will become fully operational on Dec. 20, 2017. Its twin, GOES-17, is scheduled to launch in March 2018, supplying meteorologists with even more information to help improve weather forecasting.
The Great American Eclipse
Millions of people across North America looked to the sky on Aug. 21 to witness a total solar eclipse, an event that hasn't been visible in the contiguous United States since 1979.
This was one of the most highly anticipated events of the year and it did not disappoint as people witnessed day turn to night as the moon passed in front of the sun.
Cassini ends its 13-year mission at Saturn
A historic mission came to an end on Sept. 15 when NASA’s Cassini spacecraft plunged into Saturn’s atmosphere.
With the spacecraft nearly out of fuel, NASA sent Cassini on one final, grand finale, mission to pass between Saturn and its famous rings before burning up in the planet's atmosphere.
Cassini spent over 13 years orbiting Saturn, taking more than 300,000 images and sending back 635 gigabits of scientific data.
Peggy Whitson breaks record for most total days in space by NASA astronaut
NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson made spaceflight history this year, setting a new U.S. record for most cumulative days in space on April 24. Less than two months later, Whitson broke the record for the longest single spaceflight than any other woman in history.
Whitson returned to Earth on Sept. 2 after an extended 288-day stay on the International Space Station (ISS), taking her cumulative time in space to 665 days.
March 30: SpaceX launches, lands first ‘flight proven’ rocket
This year was the biggest year yet for SpaceX, a private American rocket manufacturer headed by Elon Musk.
On March 30, the company launched and recovered a rocket that had been used nearly a year earlier to launch supplies to the ISS. This was the first time that a rocket has been used for multiple missions into space, a major milestone in the company's goal of reusing rockets to reduce costs.
SpaceX also launched 16 missions into space, more than they had ever launched in a calendar year and more than any other company or agency has launched in 2017.
First interstellar asteroid discovered
A small and unusual asteroid was detected by astronomers using Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS1 telescope in October, and after analyzing its motion, it was determined to be from outside of our solar system.
This is the first interstellar object to be observed and confirmed by astronomers.
"For decades we’ve theorized that such interstellar objects are out there, and now — for the first time — we have direct evidence they exist," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C., said in a statement.
Delaware-sized iceberg breaks off Antarctica
One of largest icebergs ever recorded broke off Antarctica on July 12, estimated to weigh more than 1 trillion tons and be about the same size as Delaware.
“Although this is a natural event and we’re not aware of any link to human-induced climate change, this puts the ice shelf in a very vulnerable position," said Dr. Martin O’Leary, a Swansea University glaciologist. "This is the furthest back that the ice front has been in recorded history. We’re going to be watching very carefully for signs that the rest of the shelf is becoming unstable.”
Neutron star gravity waves
One of the biggest astronomical discoveries of the year made headlines in August when scientists observed gravitational waves from colliding neutron stars.
This finding opens the door to new and exciting research about the cosmos, providing evidence that neutron-star smashups are the source of much of the universe's gold and platinum.
NASA announces discovery of TRAPPIST-1, potentially habitable solar system
Near the end of February, NASA announced the discovery of TRAPPIST-1, a solar system containing seven Earth-like planets orbiting a single star, all of which may contain liquid water.
“The discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system,” NASA said.
“All of these seven planets could have liquid water – key to life as we know it – under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone,” NASA said.
Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.
More Weather News
Weather News - December 11, 2018, 7:24:06 PM EST
A rare phenomenon called light pillars were seen beaming up to the night's sky in Beloit, Wisconsin, on Sunday evening.
Weather News - December 11, 2018, 2:00:41 PM EST
NOAA's annual report card on the Arctic released on Tuesday highlights the new and emerging threats as the Arctic warms and melts.
Weather News - December 11, 2018, 12:24:30 PM EST
The peak of this year’s Geminid meteor shower is set for Thursday night; however, the weather may be a thorn in the side of those hoping to view one of the year’s best meteor showers.
Weather News - December 11, 2018, 3:33:46 PM EST
While a storm is set to bring mostly rain and thunderstorms to much of the south-central United States from late Wednesday to Friday, the same storm may bring a sliver of snow on its tail end to some locations.
Weather News - December 11, 2018, 10:42:51 AM EST
A tropical low in the Bay of Bengal may develop into a tropical cyclone later this week and could impact eastern India.
Weather News - December 11, 2018, 8:00:51 AM EST
A recent study reveals that how much alcohol a person consumes could depend on whether they live in a colder or warmer region.