Saturday, January 9, 2021

Still Life with Robin: What to Expect in 2021

Image by NASA/Joel Kowsky
by Peggy Robin

Last week was one for the history books, wasn’t it?

I always like to start off my “Still Life with Robin” column in January by noting the historic anniversaries that are coming up.  If I’m still doing this column in January of 2031, you can bet I’ll be citing the 10th anniversary of the Great Invasion of the Capitol, which for all of the afternoon of January 6th threatened the lives of people in and around the US Capitol, cost five lives, and delayed the certification of the election of President Biden by the Congress.

But for now I will stick with my usual program, which is listing some significant anniversaries, commemorations, astronomical phenomena, and noteworthy calendar quirks for the year to come.

Some Historic Anniversaries….

March 16, 1621. On this day 400 years ago, Samoset, a Sagamore (sub-chief) from Monhegan Island (now part of Maine), who had learned to speak some English from the crew of a passing English fishing vessel, arrived at the newly established Plymouth Colony and greeted the settlers with these words in English: "Welcome, Englishmen! My name is Samoset." ( In some versions, the full greeting is, “Weclome, Englishmen! My name is Samoset. Do you have any beer?” 

April 3, 1721.
 Some 300 years ago, Robert Walpole assumed the title of Prime Minister of Great Britain – becoming the first political leader to do so and establishing the position as head of government, reducing the monarch to the more ceremonial role of head of state. 

August 6, 1991 will mark 30 years since Tim Berners-Lee released the outline of the plan for the World Wide Web.

September 11, 2001 is the 20-year anniversary of  the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and the attempted attack on the US Capitol -- which was the only one that did not succeed, as it was foiled by the passengers of Flight 93. Who knew that 20 years later, a mob of domestic terrorists would be the ones to invade the Capitol, many intent on lynching politicians, blowing up the building with pipe bombs, and bringing an end to certification of the election of the next president? 

November 9, 1991. It was 30 years ago that we watched in joy as the Berlin Wall – both a real physical barrier and a powerful symbol of the oppression of the Iron Curtain -- came down. Remember back when it seemed the entire world was moving, unstoppably, toward democracy?

December 20, 1946. It’s the 75th anniversary of the beloved Christmas movie, "It’s a Wonderful Life." An ordinary man from a small town finds out what life would be like if a twisted, narcissistic greedy business tycoon had been allowed to take over the town. A lesson that hasn’t lost its relevance today.

Astronomical Events.  

Solar Eclipses

June 10, 2021. While the eclipse is visible primarily in northern Canada, in Greenland, and in the north of the Russian Far East, here in the northeastern US, the sun will be partially eclipsed at sunrise, which will be between 5 and 6 A.M. (EDT). 

December 4, 2021. The total eclipse of the sun will be visible in the Southern Hemisphere, in Australia, the south of Africa, in South America, and Antarctica, and the southern oceans. View the path here:  

Lunar Events: Eclipses, Supermoons, Blue Moons

There are four supermoons* this year:  March 28, April 27, May 26, and June 24. 

( says that "a supermoon happens when the full moon coincides with the moon's closest approach to Earth in its orbit. Supermoons make the moon appear a little brighter and closer than normal, although the difference is hard to spot with the naked eye." -- from

It's the May 26, 2021 supermoon that is the most interesting one, as it's also a lunar eclipse and a "blood moon." Here's how it's described by The Farmer's Almanac (

"It’s the closest supermoon of the year, sitting at a distance of 222,116.6 miles from Earth—about 100 miles closer than April’s supermoon. It coincides with a total lunar eclipse in some areas, which means that it will take on a reddish hue during the eclipse’s maximum. In other words, it will be a 'blood moon.'” But it's also a lunar eclipse -- although here in the US, we will only see a partial eclipse. Here's how Smithsonian Magazine describes it: 

“For the first time since January 2019, the Earth’s shadow will envelop the full moon in a total lunar eclipse. Observers throughout most of the continental United States will be able to glimpse a partial eclipse, where Earth’s shadow slowly darkens the moon’s surface in the early morning hours on May 26. The moon will turn a bright orange-red—a result of light waves from the sun scattering around the Earth’s edges. The colorful effect earned the phenomenon the nickname 'blood moon.'”

On November 18–19, 2021, there will be a second partial lunar eclipse. This one will be visible in much of Europe, much of Asia, Australia, North/West Africa, North America, South America, Pacific, Atlantic, Indian Ocean, and the Arctic (

Blue Moons.

Using the most popular definition of a blue moon as the second full moon within the same calendar month – there is no blue moon in 2021. However, another definition of a blue moon is what is known as the “Seasonal Blue Moon” – that is, the third full moon in a series of four within that season – and that occurs on August 22, 2021.

A few other calendar quirks.

The Palindrome Dates. 

These are numbers that are the same, reading forwards or backwards. Using the four-digit year, we have two of these dates in 2021, which are: January 20, 2021 (1.20.2021) and December 2, 2021 (12.02.2021)

You may find it auspicious that January 20, 2021 – Inauguration Day -- is a palindrome date. It is more than that! When you look for palindrome dates using the format of a two-digit year, January 20 is also the inauguration of a full 10-day spree of Palindrome dates.


Friday the 13th. There’s only one and it comes on August 13, 2020. Does that mean there’s only one unfortunate day in 2021? That can't be, given that Wednesday, January 6, 2021 has already nabbed that title!

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays. 

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