of the year

Seen from an imaginary planet, the black hole in the galaxy M87 warps spacetime and pours out energy. Mark A. Garlick

Darkness made visible

An international team of astronomers has produced the first ever image of a black hole

Massive, ubiquitous, and in some cases as big as our Solar System, black holes hide in plain sight. The effect of their gravity on objects around them and, lately, the gravitational waves emitted when they collide reveal their presence. But no one had ever seen one directly—until April. That’s when an international team of radio astronomers released a startling close-up image of a black hole’s “shadow,” showing a dark heart surrounded by a ring of light created by photons zipping around it. Heino Falcke of Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, a member of the team that produced the image, said the first glimpse felt like “looking at the gates of hell.” That evocative image is Science’s 2019 Breakthrough of the Year. Read more …


For readers of Science online, this was the year of the Denisovans. We invited readers to vote on 12 candidates for the breakthrough. A first round of voting narrowed the choices to four, and a second round, in which more than 34,000 votes were cast, determined the People’s Choice. The Denisovan research was the clear winner. The complete results:


What went wrong in the world of science in 2019