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Art for "Quanta’s Year in Physics (2019)"
2019 in Review

The Year in Physics

December 23, 2019

Physicists saw a black hole for the first time, debated the expansion rate of the universe, pondered the origin of time and modeled the end of clouds.

Video simulation of gas around a black hole.

Astronomers Find Black Holes Stirring Up the Biggest Galaxies

December 12, 2019

After a space telescope disintegrated, astrophysicists had little hope of understanding how supermassive black holes agitate giant galaxies. Then they invented a hack.

Virginia Trimble at UC Irvine.

Virginia Trimble Has Seen the Stars

November 11, 2019

How a young celebrity became one of the first female astronomers at Caltech, befriended Richard Feynman, and ended up the world’s foremost chronicler of the science of the night sky.

Illustration of three flat sheets, connoting a flat universe, and three balls, connoting a closed universe.
Abstractions blog

What Shape Is the Universe? A New Study Suggests We’ve Got It All Wrong

November 4, 2019

Most every cosmologist believes the universe is flat. A new analysis argues that it’s closed.

Illustration of a magnetar with blue magnetic field lines.
Abstractions blog

The Most-Magnetic Objects in the Universe Attract New Controversy

October 28, 2019

How do magnetars get so magnetic? A study of stellar explosions shows that the long-accepted theory might be wrong.

An illustration of a planet in front of a star.
Abstractions blog

Physics Nobel Honors Early Universe and Exoplanet Discoveries

October 8, 2019

The astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz won half of the prize for their 1995 discovery of a Jupiter-like planet orbiting a nearby star. The cosmologist James Peebles won the other half for work exploring the structure of the universe.

Thumbnail: stylized illustration of a supernova

Long-Lived Stellar Blast Kindles Hope of a Supernova We’ve Never Seen Before

September 12, 2019

A giant star’s death throes may offer the first evidence of a pair-instability supernova, and a glimpse of the first stars in the universe.

An illustration of an extra-large black hole.
Abstractions blog

A Black Hole So Big It ‘Should Not Exist’

August 28, 2019

Researchers have confirmed rumors of a black hole collision that challenges our ideas about how black holes form.

Illustration of three black holes on a starry background
Abstractions blog

To Make Two Black Holes Collide, Try Three

August 15, 2019

How do black holes merge and make gravitational waves? Maybe with a little help from their friends.