ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Most important space and science events of 2012

Updated on February 3, 2013

2012 has proved to be a lot more busy and exciting than I originally anticipated, both from a scientific and personal perspective. I believe I can say without a doubt that the events which took place that year have written quite a few pages in the history of discoveries and conquered milestones in science and space exploration.

Long story short:

  • NASA successfully deployed a new rover on Mars' surface in the most impressive manner possible.
  • Probably not equally spectacular but also very important and long expected was Venus transition across the Sun's surface, a beautiful display which can be seen again in 2117.
  • The finding of the Higgs boson, which was one of the reasons why the Large Hadron Collider was even built, was one of the major breakthroughs in the entire history of discoveries.

Venus transition

The best ironic line I read about this event was "Wow! Something is going to transit across something else for few hours! Yepee!". The Venus transition across the Sun actually allowed the science community to do more in-depth studies on how a star's light is affected by a another body's transition, and this is important because this is one of the methods they use to find planets outside our solar system.


It is amazing, in my opinion, that, except our nearby planets, all of the stars in the sky we see with the naked eye are only galaxies and ... well, stars. No planets. That's because a planet light is very faint and it tends to be lost in the glare from their parent star, which makes it nearly impossible to be spotted through a telescope. What can be spotted though is a variation in the star's emitted light, which typically indicates that something crossed in front of it for a while and that is the first clue that the star could have an orbiting planet. However, the rate of false-positives goes as high as 35%, which is why a possible planet transition needs to be confirmed by other detection method(s).

Such transitions help calculate the size of the transiting planet, it's mass and density and the composition of its atmosphere. Furthermore, secondary eclipses, which happen when the planet is entirely blocked by its parent star, allow direct measurement of the planet's radiation, which can then be used to measure its temperature and even to detect possible signs of cloud formations (!). Scientists do all this for planets thousands or millions light years away. The Venus transition in 2012 allowed them not only to do all this for a planet "in their backyard", but most importantly, it allowed them to test their methods and sharpen their skills.


This word, "Curiosity", is supposed to be the most important quality of a scientist, and the last rover that NASA sent on Mars bears this name.

When talking about space exploration, a very common thought is that we, humans, don't know our planet very well, yet we tend to find answers and solve mysteries on other planets. This is true though, each year we read articles of new bird, fish or bacteria species found in the most unexpected environments: the deepest waters of the Earth never reached by light, the outer rim of the atmosphere in plain solar radiation, even in an environment with high concentration of arsenic that would kill most other life forms (there's a big controversy on this one). This kind of discoveries is what keeps scientists going, and they are ready to go further.

It is now a known fact that Mars once had rivers and seas, thus life or evidence of early life could very well be there, and Curiosity is the latest effort to do everything possible to find it. Apart of the fact that the cutting-edge tools and technologies that it is equipped with makes it smarter and more capable than all its predecessors (it would have been really weird otherwise), the landing process is what made it special in the first place.

Think about what the people who made this possible had to consider, predict and calculate in order for this to work "by the book" hundreds of millions kilometers away and having no similar precedent for reference. In my opinion, this landing was a work of art, because one must be a genius only to think of such a complex process, not to mention turning it into reality.

The Higgs boson

Throughout the recent history, when the nebula shrouding the quantic world was a little bit denser, once in a while a scientist jumped to the conclusion that another particle must exist in order to explain the behaviour of the others. The problem that almost all faced was that, in spite of the fact that the new particle probably solved their burning, long running issue, in order for it to fit the particle model, it also implied the existence of another particle, or even particles. They had little knowing of what's happening down there and every time they got a little closer to the truth, the problem got a new shape, each time a weirder one. At some point, whenever they were finding the need of another particle, it was so common that they were adding that particle to the particle zoo. That's what they called the collection of new weird and almost impossible particles.

In the following years though, they started sorting them, testing them with different models and categorize them until it was all starting to make sense. A different approach showed that the new particles weren't so numerous after all, many of them being variations of another, looking different depending on the viewer's perspective. Just imagine yourself in a mirror labyrinth and you'll know what I mean.

One major problem still remained though. The problem was mass which, on small scale doesn't seem to make sense. Some particles were bigger than the others, sometimes hundreds of times, yet they had smaller mass that the little ones. Remember that we are talking about elementary particles (particles with no substructure). So how can this be possible?

Peter Higgs proposed in 1964 a theory which implied, in short, the existence of an unknown particle which gives mass to the other particles. His theory implies that there is a field all around us, now called Higgs field, through which all particles move, and by moving through this field, they gain mass. This field would be what actually keeps matter altogether. Even scientists find it hard to explain how the Higgs boson and field work. One analogy to how particles gain mass by moving through the Higgs field is a thread moving through honey, or a star (as a rock star) trying to walk through a crowd of reporters as compared to ordinary people who move freely :-) Of course, it's a lot more complicated than that, but it's the best they could think of to explain it for us.

The Large Hadron Collider in Geneva was build mostly for the purpose of finding the Higgs boson and study it's existence consequences. On 4 July 2012, two separate experimental teams announced that they had each independently confirmed the existence of a previously unknown particle which physicists suspect is the Higgs boson and whose known behaviour (up to December 2012) closely matches the Standard Model Higgs boson.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Daniel V. profile imageAUTHOR

      Daniel V. 

      5 years ago from Romania

      Thank you very much, Prasetio!

    • prasetio30 profile image


      5 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very informative hub. I always interest with space subject. Thanks for writing and share with us. I learn many things here. Voted up!



    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)