Here we are again, watching as another year moves into history and speculation about what the new year might bring. This year also sees the end of a decade, and the beginning of the 2020s. As always, this has been an exciting year for the scientific community, and one that has marked a number of interesting new advances at all levels - from hints of a new particle up to images of a massive black hole.

I must also add a small disclaimer here, and mention that I have been distracted by other issues this year and therefore might have missed a few stories. My apologies to any teams that published something amazing that I have overlooked.

Now on to the science!

The year started with a spectacular fly-by, as the New Horizons probe did the most distant observation in history with a New Year's Day visit to the planetoid Ultima Thule (although there is currently a strong demand to change the name, as the astronomers were unaware of some negative historical connotations of the mythical land of Ultima Thule.). This tiny misshapen piece of ice and rock is orbiting at the edge of the Solar System, even beyond the orbits of Pluto and Uranus. It doesn't seem to be scientifically interesting yet, but the data is still being analyzed.

Following the ongoing success of the New Horizons mission, we had the end of another very successful mission in February as the Opportunity Rover was officially declared to have died on the surface of Mars. Over its lifetime it provided invaluable data and photographs of the planetary surface, and had already outlived its expected lifespan many times over, but it was still a bit sad to see it finally end. 

Of course the big news in astronomy circles, and in the popular scientific media, was April's announcement of the first photograph of a black hole. Using telescopes around the globe, astronomers were able to collect enough light to produce a blurry image of a massive black hole in a distant part of the galaxy. As expected, it was a nondescript black hole in space surrounded by a bright accretion disk, and not much to look at. But it was still a photograph of a distant object, and that alone makes it a significant step forward in science.

And while we are on the subject of science and space in the media, we must acknowledge the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing, which represented the first time human beings set foot on another world. It may not be scientific news this year, but the excitement that it generated in 1969 inspired many of the brilliant astronomers and engineers that are driving space exploration forward today. 

Continuing from the moon, this year saw two stories about lunar exploration that were news worthy for very different reasons. In February came the news that Canadian scientists would be involved in the Lunar Gateway projects, whose mission is to put a space station in orbit around the moon in the coming years. This station would serve as a waypoint for astronauts venturing further into the solar system, and could one day be remembered as the first colony on another world. Unfortunately August brought slightly more disturbing news for the lunar surface as it was revealed that the Beresheet space mission had crashed into the moon and spilled its cargo of microbes. We can now say that there is life on the moon, but unfortunately it is because we put it there. It is believed that all of these alien microbes quickly died from the environmental conditions, but there are still concerns that this crash could have long term negative effects on our ability to study the properties of the lunar surface, and some have even raised concerns that previously undetected lunar lifeforms could be wiped out by this accidental invasion. Only time will tell.

On the subatomic scale, we ended the year with controversial claims from Hungary of the discovery of a new particle. This team does have a history of false discoveries, and the particle properties that they have announced should have been detectable decades ago in other experiments, so there is a healthy dose of skepticism on this one. But as with any major announcement, the scientific community will study it further and either confirm or disprove its existence. 

And those were only a few of the many scientific advances made in 2019. This was the year that cosmology and exoplanets were both recognized with Nobel Prizes. This was the year that quantum computing started to become more realistic, with many tech companies such as Google starting to announce working (but simplistic) quantum computers. And of course this was the year that many experiments that did not make the news started collecting the data that will be next year's headlines.

We can only wait to see what amazing scientific discoveries await us in the next twelve months!