Crossing final frontiers in space

What did we learn in 2006, then?

Moving on from our immediate locale, there was also a fair amount of activity just in our own solar system. The Mars Rovers kept NASA busy, sending back picture after picture of the red planet. They were also snapped themselves, in the act of climbing to the edges of craters. Later in the year, pictures from the Mars Global Surveyor suggested water might still flow on the red planet.

All kinds of mayhem, indeed.

Europe also has Mars firmly in its sights with the bad news that the mission is being delayed being slightly offset by the good news that this might mean more exciting science can be done. China is also plotting a path to Mars, officially announcing its ambitions through the Xinhua news agency in July this year.

Heading further from the sun, we approach the ringed planet Saturn. Thanks to the Cassini spacecraft, we have seen plenty of pictures of pretty moons and rings, not to mention odd weather on the planet itself. Oh, and did we mention the pictures of the rings? And the moons and stuff?

So, where to now? Heading out past the rest of the planets, and the recently demoted Pluto, we reach the strange and icy realms of the comets.

NASA managed to collect some particles from the tail of Comet Wild2. To everyone's surprise, some of the stuff they collected had to have formed at high temperatures - that is, in the inner solar system - as well as all the icy material one would expect to find in an object thought to have formed at the very dark and distant edges of the solar system. Very odd indeed.

Sponsored: Accelerated Computing and the Democratization of Supercomputing