Let’s say we weren’t surprised. Three of Science Magazine’s top 10 science stories for 2002 came from the world of astronomy:
Astronomy's prominence in Science's year-end lineup closely followed the 2002 Nobel Prize in physics being awarded to Raymond Davis, Jr., and Masatoshi Koshiba, whose campaigns first captured solar neutrinos, and to Riccardo Giacconi, the father of X-ray astronomy — the esoteric but wildly successful discipline whose flagship, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, is painting new portraits of our Milky Way and galaxies beyond.
Of course, choosing top astronomy stories isn’t easy: more than 200 headlines appeared here this year, and myriad other milestones filled the 1,748 pages that Sky & Telescope published in 2002.
A new chapter in the epic saga of the Hubble Space Telescope was written from Earth orbit as astronauts installed the spacecraft’s new Advanced Camera for Surveys and breathed new life into NICMOS, its heat-seeing infrared imager, whose coolant prematurely dissipated four years ago.
Also reborn in 2002 were:
A new era also dawned in the search for gravitational waves — ripples in the fabric of space and time, and a key prediction of Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity — with the cross-continental LIGO experiment going into "science mode" for the first time.
Birth inevitably is paired with death. Among several lamented passings, Japanese comet hunter Yuji Hyakutake’s premature death in April saddened those who remember with gratitude his namesake comet, C1996 B2, which spanned the sky as it skimmed Polaris seven years ago. With hindsight, Comet Ikeya-Zhang's presence in twilit April skies seems a fitting tribute. A generation of astrophotographers also mourned the end of Lumicon's operations as a longstanding supplier of imaging and observing accessories.
As a quick search of our online news archive makes abundantly clear, this terse summary only scratches the surface of an amazing year in amateur astronomy and scientific space exploration. That’s why S&T’s editors and contributors — with the help of the worldwide astronomical community — work overtime to keep you in touch with the sky and its myriad mysteries. In the meantime, we wish you a safe and fulfilling New Year.