As new telescopes, space companies and initiatives start up, it seems excitement for what lies beyond our planet has been growing rapidly in recent years. 2017 was a big year for exploring our solar system and understanding the much larger cosmos. We've compiled a few dozen of the biggest stories in space from the past year, from the hunt for E.T. to gravitational waves and more.
In the US, the space story of the year experienced first-hand by the most people was the Great American Total Eclipse in August. Millions of Americans traveled or just stepped outside to watch the rare coast-to-coast spectacle of our moon blotting out the sun.
Elon Musk's rocket company now plans even more launches for 2018, including the debut of its massive Falcon Heavy rocket.
Musk to Mars 2.0
Elon Musk debuted his grand scheme to colonize Mars in 2016 and returned in September to double down on the plan, saying that SpaceX has found ways to make it cheaper to pull off and that unmanned rockets could start making the Red Planet voyage as soon as 2022.
Pluto is no longer a planet, but in 2017 the search for other solar system planets even further out in space grew more intriguing. The gravitational influence of a hidden ninth planet could explain the strange movements of some Kuiper Belt objects and this year the effort to spot such a large, distant object ramped up.
This year also saw the debut of new theories, including the existence not just of an unseen ninth planet, but of a 10th planet as well.
National Radio Astronomy Observatory
Listening for E.T.
The effort to scan the skies for signals from across the cosmos got a boost in 2017 from initiatives like the Stephen Hawking-backed Breakthrough Listen, new telescopes in Australia and elsewhere.
Telescopes trained on the star in May when it started doing weird things again and new theories posit that lots of space dust, and not alien structures may be responsible for the star's odd behavior.
Big Ear Radio Observatory and North American AstroPhysical Observatory
Still Wowing us
Forty years after first wowing astronomers, the so-called "Wow! Signal" was a point of discussion again in 2017. When one scientist proposed that comets could explain the inexplicable signal picked up by a radio telescope in 1977, Aliens could still explain the "Wow signal," scientists say, keeping alive the possibility that some sort of extra-terrestrial intelligence could be behind the exciting signal.
Of the many distant stars hosting exoplanets, Trappist-1 is one of the most enticing. First announced in February, the system boasts no less than seven planets, including three that could be in the habitable zone.