Year in Review: 2011 in Space

Aurora Borealis from the International Space Station
View of the Aurora Borealis from the ISS. (Image credit: The Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center)

The Earth is completing another trip around the sun, bringing 2011 to a close after a packed year of spectacular sights and mission successes, as well as some big disappointments.

As the promise of 2012 beckons, here's a look back at the year 2011 in space:

Photos & Multimedia

The Kepler space telescope has spied evidence of two Earth-sized worlds in a star system 950 light-years away. (Image credit: Karl Tate, Contributor/ NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle)

Tuesday, December 20

11 Most Amazing Astronomy Stories of 2011

What a year it has been for science and astronomy. From the discoveries of potentially habitable alien planets to the detection of a tiny new moon around Pluto and jaw-dropping lunar and solar eclipses, astronomical research in 2011 has not only made extraordinary strides but also raised new and tantalizing questions for the future.

Video: 2011 – A Year of Exciting Astronomy Discoveries
Asteroids, comets, eclipses, eruptions and discoveries highlight a very active year in space. See some of the astronomical highlights that made 2011 a special year to peer into the cosmos.

Wednesday, December 21

The Most Memorable Spaceflights of 2011
This year was quite an eventful one in spaceflight, with many vessels launching toward the heavens — and a few crashing back to Earth. Here's a rundown of the top 11 spaceflight stories of 2011, from the last mission of NASA's venerable space shuttle program to China's first-ever docking of two spaceships in Earth orbit.

Vote Now! 11 Biggest Spaceflight Stories of 2011
2011 was a very eventful year in spaceflight. Vote for your favorite space mission of the year here.

Monday, December 26

The Most Anticipated Space Missions of 2012
The space shuttle program is over, but that won't mean a lack of launches in 2012.

Video: 11 American Unmanned Rocket Launches of 2011
See the rockets' REAL red glare here in these 11 space shots of the year by U.S. launch provider United Launch Alliance.

Tuesday, December 27

2011: A Year of Transition for Human Spaceflight
Human spaceflight turned 50 this year, but 2011 was less about drawing inspiration from the past than about transitioning to an uncertain future.

This snapshot from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows a stunning prominence associated with a Sept. 8, 2010 solar flare. (Image credit: NASA/SDO)

Wednesday, December 28

2011 Was the Year of the Restless Sun

After five years of surprising quiet, the sun roared to life in 2011. Our star erupted with numerous strong flares and waves of charged particles. Many researchers predict the surge will culminate in a peak in the sun's 11-year activity cycle in 2013.

Vote Now! Most Intriguing Alien Planets of 2011
The year 2011 saw the discovery of a bountiful crop of alien planets. Scientists discovered the darkest world, a diamond world, a new class of rogue worlds and more. Cast your vote for your favorite!

Thursday, December 29

Vote Now! The Best Space Photos of 2011
It wasn't easy, but we pulled 50 of the most amazing views from space in 2011 for you to review. But which one is the best? Vote now and decide!

Friday, December 30

Apocalypse Not Now: 2012 Doomsday Predictions Debunked by NASA
On Dec. 21, 2012, many doomsday believers fear the apocalypse — anything from a rogue planet smashing into us to our world spinning end over end. However, the world should expect nothing more next year than the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, NASA says.

12 Biggest Must-See Skywatching Events of 2012
As the year 2011 comes to a close, some might wonder what is looming sky-wise for 2012? What celestial events might we look forward to seeing? Here are 12 cosmic skywatching events not to miss in 2012.

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News and editorial team is the premier source of space exploration, innovation and astronomy news, chronicling (and celebrating) humanity's ongoing expansion across the final frontier. Originally founded in 1999, is, and always has been, the passion of writers and editors who are space fans and also trained journalists. Our current news team consists of Editor-in-Chief Tariq Malik; Editor Hanneke Weitering, Senior Space Writer Mike Wall; Senior Writer Meghan Bartels; Senior Writer Chelsea Gohd, Senior Writer Tereza Pultarova and Staff Writer Alexander Cox, focusing on e-commerce. Senior Producer Steve Spaleta oversees our space videos, with Diana Whitcroft as our Social Media Editor.