Saturday, December 28, 2019

Still Life with Robin: No 2020 Perfect Vision Puns Here!

Supermoon over the Lincoln Memorial (NASA)

by Peggy Robin

2020 is just a few days away – a good time to take a peek at the year to come. No puns here about perfect vision to see what’s ahead – just a run-through of a few noteworthy dates, historic anniversaries, and astronomical events.

First of all, 2020 is a leap year! Pregnant ladies with a due date around the end of February, your child could be a Leapling! And spend a lifetime hearing lame jokes about being just three in 2032, and four in 2036, ad nauseum….

Next on the agenda: the year’s palindrome date(s). In case you didn’t know, a palindrome date reads the same forwards and backwards -- and there’s only one in 2020:  February 2, 2020. That’s 02-02-2020 – the only day in the 21st century that’s a palindrome in both month/day/year format AND day/month/year format. If you give birth to a child on this day, may we suggest the following baby names: Girls: Anna, Ada, Eve, Hannah. Boys: Bob, Otto.

On to the Year in Astronomy (all events are from -

Let’s start with the Supermoons. Those are full moons that appear larger and brighter than usual, occurring when a full moon closely coincides with perigee, the moon’s closest point to Earth in its monthly orbit. There are four Supermoons this year: February 9, March 9, April 8, and May 7.

Next up: the Blue Moon (that’s a second full moon in the same month). You’ll see it on Halloween, October 31, 2020. Of course, it’s not a great rarity as the phrase, “once in a blue moon” implies. You might think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon when it’s actually something that happens every 2-3 years. The next one after the Halloween Blue Moon of 2020 will be on August 1, 2023. [You can see the list of blue moon through 2039 here:]

From the moon to the sun:  There will be a total solar eclipse in 2020, but you will need to go to the southern hemisphere to see it. The path of totality will only be visible in parts of southern Chile and southern Argentina. A partial eclipse will be visible in most parts of southern South America, the southeastern Pacific Ocean and the southern Atlantic Ocean. [NASA Map and Eclipse Information -]

And on to the planets: On the winter solstice, December 21, 2020, get yourself access to a telescope to view the rare conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. “This rare conjunction of these two planets is known as a great conjunction. The last great conjunction occurred in the year 2000. The two bright planets will appear only 7 arc minutes of each other in the night sky. They will be so close that they will appear to make a bright double planet. Look to the west just after sunset for this impressive and rare planetary pair.” [Description from]

From the heavenly bodies to earthly personages – here are some noteworthy birthdays and anniversaries.

On January 19, we can celebrate the 100th birthday of the ACLU.

In the spring and summer, you will be sure to hear a lot about the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. May 8th marks the end of the war in Europe and September 2nd marks the end of the war in the Pacific.

On May 8th, you can blow out 200 birthday candles for Florence Nightingale, the mother of modern nursing. Or just celebrate with any nurse that you know.

On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution is passed – so this August 26 is the centennial of women’s suffrage.

On November 11th it’s the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower at Cape Cod. They remained on the ship and signed the Mayflower Compact. The explored the coast for a place to make their permanent settlement and arrived at Plymouth Rock on December 21, 1620.

Sometime around the middle of December (no one is sure of the exact date!), we can celebrate the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven. Play the Ode to Joy!

And now for an anniversary that really, really takes us back…..2,500 years to 480 BC (August or September, it’s hard to be sure) to the Battle of Thermopylae. Don’t know about this ancient, world-changing battle? It was dramatized in the movie “300” with King Leonidas (played by Gerard Butler) and the 300 Spartans heroically holding off the Persians at the pass at Thermopylae. They all died, but they cost the Persians 20,000 men and arguably bought time for the Greeks to reevaluate, change strategy and ultimately end the Persian invasion.  The dominance of the Greek Empire in the ancient world has all kinds of reverberations throughout the history of the West, too numerous to mention. But just think of what it would be like if the Persians had won, and we ended up using Persian letters for our college fraternities and sororities!

When someone looks back hundreds or even thousands of years from 2020, let’s hope it’s for the good things that happened, not the bad!

Happy New Year to All!
Still Life with Robin is published on The Cleveland ParkListserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.   

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