2019: A year of innovation, achievement and change

Timothy Fagan, Staff Writer

The year 2019 was filled with scientific innovation and exploration. As a species, humans learned more about the natural world in fields ranging from astronomy to biology. The important discoveries were made not just on Earth but in the far corners of deep space as well. With such phenomenal science occurring year-round, it is easy to imagine that important developments have flown under the radar for some students and scientists alike.

A huge amount of water-ice was discovered on Mars. So much water was found that according to lead author Stefano Nerozzi, a doctoral student in geology at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, it is the third largest water cache after the polar ice caps. This discovery was backed by a second study with an overlapping group of scientists. The team found enough water-ice that if it was melted down and spread through the entire planet it would cover the surface of Mars with five feet of liquid water.

Venturing outside of Earth’s solar system, the first pictures of the black hole were a notable discovery that was covered by major media outlets. Photographing a black hole was thought to be impossible because of the nature of a black hole; it is incapable of reflecting light and is therefore perfectly hidden in the darkness of space. The photograph taken in April 2019 was possible because the black hole was imaged while backlit by hot swirling gases.

According to Charles Q. Choi, the key to the breakthrough was linking many radio dishes across the globe to create a virtual telescope practically the size of the Earth. Avi Loeb, chair of astronomy at Harvard University, explains that astronomers and physicists will continue to try and take pictures of black holes in hopes of seeing something unexpected that can revolutionize our understanding of black holes and the matter around them.

Closer to home, July 2019 was the hottest month on record. These harsh facts further support the idea of human-induced climate change. Besides rising temperatures, there have been multiple fires, droughts and floods caused by global warming. The record warmth also led to all-time low heights for Arctic and Antarctic sea ice. According to Philip B. Duffy, a physicist and president of the Woods Hole Research Center, recent weather and climate patterns are consistent with climate change predictions.

Scientists will surely use 2020 to build from the advancements made in 2019. Countless scientific questions remain unanswered.