This was a year of both triumphs and challenges

The cover of this year-end issue of Science News spotlights a spectacular scientific achievement: an image of deep space captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. After decades of delay and cost overruns, the absurdly complicated craft started beaming back images this summer. Each image has exceeded scientists’ wildest expectations. We had a hard time choosing just one for the cover.

These extraordinary views, some looking more than 13 billion years back in time, brought our staff joy too — so much so that we’ve led off our year-end review with this technological triumph, including more gorgeous images (SN: 12/7/22 p.15). This year had plenty of other big news in astronomy, including the launch of NASA’s Artemis I mission, a key step in sending people to the moon and beyond (SN: 11/16/22 p.30). For sheer fun, it’s hard to beat NASA’s DART spacecraft elbowing an asteroid off course. It was the first test of a method to protect our planet from dangerous collisions with space rocks (SN: 10/11/22 p.30).

It was also a big year for efforts to counter the impacts of climate change, with the U.S. Congress passing legislation to invest billions of dollars in green energy technologies (SN: 12/14/22 p.28).

And here at Science News, we wrapped our 100-year anniversary project, the Century of Science, taking deep dives into the evolution of climate science, our digital lives, quantum reality and more. Our March 26 issue chronicled how our journalism, like the science, has evolved over the decades.

Please forgive me for opening with the good news; it’s the optimist in me. There were many challenges in 2022 as well. The SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to defy hopes that it will slink off, with the omicron variant driving a historic surge in infections and deaths earlier this year.

Vaccines for children and an updated booster were bright spots (SN: 12/13/22 p.23). But “pandemic fatigue” plus mixed messaging from public officials encouraged many people to abandon precautions and skip booster shots, even though the virus is killing more than 300 people a day in the United States (SN: 12/9/22 p.20). And now, when all we really want is a holiday season with no worries about spreading dreaded diseases, flu and other viruses are piling on (SN: 12/12/22 p.24). When are these germs going to cut us a break? Never, a virologist would likely say.

But I take consolation in the fact that with each vast new challenge, scientists are continuing to lead the way in seeking solutions.

Nancy Shute is editor in chief of Science News Media Group. Previously, she was an editor at NPR and US News & World Report, and a contributor to National Geographic and Scientific American. She is a past president of the National Association of Science Writers.