As the holiday festivities wind down and us in the northern hemisphere settle in for a few more months of pointing uncomfortably away from the sun, it's a good time to reflect on the scientific journey we've had in the past year. Perhaps most interesting was that of the most notable achievements and discoveries made in astronomy last year, almost all were surprises.
A family of Earth-sized exoplanets around a nearby red dwarf star; the serendipitous observation of colliding neutron stars using both gravitational waves and the more familiar electromagnetic ones; the brief encounter with an asteroid of definite interstellar origins. All unexpected, and all significant.
But then there was the Great American Eclipse. Astronomers have been able to predict solar eclipses with to-the-minute accuracy since 1715, so we pretty much knew that one was coming. And to be perfectly honest, I count August 21st as the most significant scientific moment of the year. While I personally didn't get to see totality due to an unfortunately placed cloud over Nashville, hundreds of millions of across the US, Canada, and Mexico got to enjoy at least some solar coverage.
For a brief moment, it seemed as if everyone's eyes looked skywards and all thoughts turned astronomical.
And then it was back to business as usual, as usual.