It was another big year for the research community, filled with groundbreaking research and technological advances. As we start 2020, take a look back and review some of the impactful work from the Astronomy programme.

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Insights from the Editorial Team

© Springer Nature 2020

Dr. Ramon Khanna, Executive Editor

2019 has been a very special and extremely exciting year both for the international astronomy community and for the interested public. The International Astronomical Union celebrated its 100th anniversary with a series of events and publications.

I’m proud to feature here one of the IAU publications, The International Astronomical Union by Andersen, J., Baneke, D. M., Madsen, C., Springer (2019).

One day before the IAU Flagship Event, which took place on 11-13 April 2019 at the Palace of the Academies in Brussels, officially kicking-off the IAU anniversary celebrations, the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration announced in six major press conferences held simultaneously around the globe in Belgium (Brussels), Chile (Santiago), China (Shanghai), Japan (Tokyo), Taiwan (Taipei), and USA (Washington, D.C.) that they had succeeded in obtaining the first image of the Shadow of a Black Hole. That was a real Wow! moment for any astrophysicist, especially for those having worked on black holes, having seen simulated pictures, like on the cover of the book Compact Objects in Astrophysics (2007). Amazing how similar the real picture looks to the simulations.

In July followed the 50th anniversary of the Apollo lunar landing. Those of us having watched it live in 1969 will forever remember the emotions of awe, wonder, pride and joy. Mankind still enjoys watching the TV recordings, documentaries and movies. And you can read details in several books in the Springer Praxis book series Space Exploration.

Astronomers’ joy culminated in October when the Physics Nobel Prize winners were announced: Half of the Prize was awarded jointly to Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz “for the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star”. The other half was awarded to James Peebles “for theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology”. So well deserved – the winners changed the research landscape in cosmology and started the whole new branch of exoplanetary astronomy which you can read on extensively in the Handbook of Exoplanets (2018). And if you want to know “How Cosmologists Explain the Universe to Friends and Family” read that brand-new book by Karim Malik (2019).

Ongoing excitement comes from Solar Physics. Launched in August 2018, the Parker Solar Probe is on its way to touch the Sun to unlock the mysteries of its corona. Following the release of the first science from the probe’s data, NASA has presented first findings of this solar mission in December 2019. The results have been published in nature. A comprehensive 700 page pre-Parker-Solar-Probe-review of New Millennium Solar Physics is given in the book by Markus Aschwanden (2019). 

Ongoing excitement also comes from Gravitational Wave Astronomy. Since the first direct detection of gravitational waves in 2015, many more events have been detected by gravitational wave detectors on Earth, LIGO and VIRGO. However the detection of signals from two colliding neutron stars in 2017 both in gravitational waves and in various energy regimes of light marked the start of actual gravitational wave astronomy as part of multi-messenger astronomy. While new detections have almost become routine in 2019, it is still very exciting and most of the scientific discoveries are still to be made with future facilities. Quoting from the review article The astrophysics of nanohertz gravitational waves by Burke-Spolaor, S., Taylor, S.R., Charisi, M. et al. Astron Astrophys Rev (2019): “The detection of nanohertz GWs by Pulsar Timing Arrays (PTAs) is expected to be the next major milestone in GW astrophysics. In the future, PTAs and ground-based laser interferometry experiments will be complemented by space-based laser interferometers and observations of primordial GWs, imprinted in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background, providing comprehensive access to the GW Universe.” So stay tuned! By the way, in 2019 The Astronomy and Astrophysics Review has celebrated its 30th anniversary. Congratulations and many more successful years to come. 

I can’t stop without pointing out that, besides from theory, progress in astronomy is mainly driven by data obtained from astronomical experiments, which are either observations using highly sophisticated instruments or numerical simulations. But what would those data tell us without computer-intensive data analysis, statistical methods and visualisation. All this are subjects of our journals Experimental Astronomy, Computational Astrophysics and Cosmology and Living Reviews in Computational Astrophysics.

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