This past year has been — like most are — up and down for science in general and astronomy in particular. We’ve had stunning successes and heartbreaking setbacks, all of which seem huge when dealing with them at the time. But while the science of astronomy is many things, one of the more subtle yet deeply profound aspects of it is its ability to provide a sense of perspective.
The year’s end is a traditional time to look back and try to gain perspective on the events that occurred during this last circuit of the Sun. Astronomers have been hammering away at the sky, taking images that have profoundly pushed forward our understanding of the Universe. But there’s been more than that, too. They’ve slapped down some bad science — and deleting a negative is indeed a positive. They have also looked at old things in a new way, or new things in a new way, and even some new things in an old way.
With all this in mind, I decided to create my list of Best Astronomy Pictures of 2006. I went through hundreds of images (maybe thousands), checking NASA, APOD, the ESA, BAUT, and a few dozen amateur and professional sites featuring pictures as well. The criteria I kept in mind were beauty, of course, but also scientific value. But both of these could be trumped by the coolness factor. All three are subjective, but what the heck. It’s my blog. So here is what I came up with.
All the images below are hosted at Flickr, and they link to the original sites with higher resolution images (many of the pictures are suitable as wallpapers).
Remember, it’s my list. If you disagree, or you agree but don’t like my ordering, then post a comment! Let’s see what you think should have been here. Maybe I’ll post my runners-up list.
I don't feel like posting all of them, click the link for the full list with descriptions. Here are the ones I thought were the coolest:
8) The Tarantula Writ Large
4) Direct Evidence of Dark Matter