I knew going in that 2012 was going to be a pretty busy year for me, and it was! Personally the highlights were the AAS meeting in January, successfully pulling off the very popular public viewing of the Venus transit in June, and seeing the Space Shuttle Endeavour in September (more about that later...). But in the broader world, there was some pretty incredible stuff this year. There were also some sad good-byes and heartbreaking tragedies, and I know it was a rough year for some of my friends and acquaintances, but I want to focus on the good things.
Humans literally went to the extremes - James Cameron solo dived to the deepest part of the Earth's oceans, while Felix Baumgartner jumped from a balloon in the stratosphere. And we got to see both occur live on our computers.
Physicists have probably discovered the Higgs boson, one of the key points of modern Standard Model of physics. (I'll refrain from grousing about how it could have been discovered 15 years sooner and here in Texas if the Congress hadn't been so short-sighted in canceling the Superconducting Supercollider in 1993.)
I saw a man run in the Olympics on two artificial legs. Wow.
Private spaceflight is becoming a reality and SpaceX is proved it can do the job of the low-earth orbit tasks and leave the big stuff, like going beyond Earth orbit, to NASA.
And the highlight, in my opinion, was the amazing landing of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover on Mars. I *still* can't believe that worked...
On a more personal and far less scientific note, this was a great year for one of my favorite places on Earth - London. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee was a great warm-up to their hosting the Olympics just a few weeks later and I loved every minute of watching both. I realized while watching the Olympics - in particular the cycling at Hampton Court Palace - that of all the cities that have hosted the Olympics, London is the one I've spent the most time in. (And I've only been in 2 other cities that have hosted - Rome, which hosted the games before I was born, and Atlanta. Well, technically I've been in St. Louis too, but only the airport!).
From my history side - the possible discovery of the remains of Richard III. The historical detective work that went into if was amazing enough, but the fact that they have found remains that, circumstantially at this point, might be what they were looking for is astounding. It still gives me chills!
On my geeky side - "The Avengers" was amazing and I'm still so impressed that Marvel has been able to put together such a good string of movies and was able to bring it all together into a movie that was even better than the sum of its parts. The finale to the Batman trilogy was perfect as well. And we got to go back to Middle Earth! But the tops for me was the acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney and the announcement that we would indeed get episodes VII, VIII, and IX. This is a kind of Holy Grail of my childhood, to see all 9 episodes of the Star Wars "Skywalker family" saga actually happen. And I'm looking forward to some of the other Star Wars projects that have been mentioned outside of the 9-part sage. Personally I'd love to see some stuff set in the Old Republic days.
I'm sure there are things I'm missing, but these are a few of the things that will make 2012 special in my memories!