As the New Horizons probe approached Pluto, we began to gain an appreciation for this far-flung corner of the solar system. This includes the planet itself, which may exhibit Nitrogen cycling between its atmosphere and surface glaciers.
The anticipation builds as one zooms in. COURTESY: Discovery News.
Not only do we have an up-close accounting of Pluto's surface, we also gained knowledge about Pluto's environs, which consists of a number of celestial bodies. The two main bodies are Pluto and its main moon Charon. Notably, Pluto and Charon orbit a common center-of-gravity, which is a bit different from the relationship between Earth and the Moon.
Map of the Pluto mini-system (top) and the tidal locking between Pluto and Charon (bottom). TOP: IAU. BOTTOM: Stephanie Hoover, Wikimedia Commons.
While the discovery of exoplanets is no longer news, ones that resemble Earth still cause people to stand up and take notice. The latest exoplanet discovery is called Kepler-452b, which is within the circumstellar habitable zone of Kepler-186.
Diagram and artist's renditions of Kepler-452b, the latest and greatest earth-like exoplanet. COURTESY: Space.com.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the possibility of an intense El Nino this coming year and the associated climatological modeling.
Comparing powerful El Nino events: 1997-1998 and (coming soon?) 2015-2016. COURTESY: NOAA.