Look Up! Don’t Miss the Starlight at the End of the 2020 Tunnel
Beating a Dead Horse
2020 has been a devastating, difficult year. The year of the COVID-19 global pandemic will never be forgotten, and its impact on our psyches, our wallets, our businesses, families, and social lives will linger like the taste of sour milk on our tongues.
When things are really bad, people use humor to survive, and quotes abound that reflect the dire circumstances of 2020:
“The bright side of 2020 being the worse year ever is that it will drastically reduce the number of ‘hindsight is 2020’ jokes.”
“Has anyone tried flipping to the beginning of 2020 and choosing a different adventure?”
“2020 was like, ‘I know a place…’ and it took us to Hell.”
or my favorite:
“Based on 2020 thus far, I’m expecting the flying monkeys of Oz to show up any time now.”
It was bad. No doubt about it. But there’s no sense in beating a dead horse. Instead, look at the bright side…literally.
The Bright Light at the End of the 2020 Tunnel
I know it’s there. I saw it this morning in my sleepy 4:00 a.m. awakening, shining into my bedroom, unbidden yet desired. Unexpected yet needed. It was sending twinkles through the tree branches and shooting tiny sparkler-sizzles onto my face. Hot-white against an indigo sky, it was beautiful to behold.
That starlight will grow brighter and bigger, culminating with a once-in-a-lifetime show that everyone needs to notice in this otherwise dismal year.
On December 21st, the first day of winter this year, Jupiter and Saturn, the two biggest and brightest planets of our solar system, will come close to each other, in a “Great Conjunction,” the closest they’ve been since 1226.
Think of this: If you held a dime sideways in your hand so that only the edge showed, and if you stretched out your arm, that width of that dim is how close Jupiter and Saturn will appear in the sky. One-tenth of a degree. (No matter that the distance between them is actually 400 million miles apart; in the vast sky, the two planets look close enough to kiss each other.)
Konstantin Batygin, a Professor of Planetary Science at California Institute of Technology says,
“It’s one of those rare time when the majesty of the solar system presents itself to the naked eye.”
Naked Eyes and Undisguised Joy
The “starlight” formed by the alignment of Jupiter and Saturn can be seen by the naked eye, so everyone in the world can be privy to its beauty. If you have binoculars or a telescope, you can enhance your experience, catching a glimpse of Jupiter’s four moons, Europa, Io, Callisto, and Ganymede. Even the glittering rings of Saturn — made of ice and asteroids, chunks of moons and crushed comets — will be visible.
If the sense of delight and wonder I felt when the light of a “Great Conjunction” landed on my face in the pre-dawn hours this morning is any indication, watching these two planets align on the 21st day of December, 2020, will bring me unabashed, unadorned, undisguised joy.
Jupiter and Saturn aligned like this in 1226, eight hundred years before us. It happened again in 1623, four hundred years after the 1226 event and fourteen years after Galileo made his telescope, but then the planets were too close to the sun to be visible from earth.
The Great Conjunction is thought by many astronomers to have been the “Christmas star” that shone over Bethlehem and guided wise men to the site of Jesus’ birth.
The alignment of Jupiter and Saturn will occur again in 2080, but unless I live to be more than 120 years old, I won’t see it.
It’s like the natural world is gifting us with something precious and rare at the end of this terrible year. I’m going to soak up the light, star-bathing and sighing at the wonder of this once-in-a-lifetime experience, grasping at what shines from the great galaxy when I need it most. Light in the darkness, shining through the long tunnel of 2020.
You might need it, too. All you have to do is look up.