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Randy Holladay is a former Louisa County High School earth science teacher. His guest column, On & Off Earth, is published once a month. 

Amid the viral and other mania of 2020, recently another time of worldwide mania came to my mind: Y2K. 

You may remember being at a Y2K party 21 years ago. Children born after that day are becoming legal this year to buy adult beverages. They have no concept of a time before the internet or cell phones and consider those of us who attended those Y2K parties, old.

I have two new cousins, baby boys born in this wildest of years; I wonder and worry about the world they will grow into. What will the legacy of 2020 be 21 years hence? Earth and time will tell, moving ever onward!

At some point in January, toward the middle of the month, you’re going to realize it’s 6 p.m. and it’s still somewhat light outside; the planet tilting sunward again, days growing ever so slightly longer. Bundle up and get out for a stroll to enjoy the extra light and then linger into twilight, catching the bright stars of winter as they “turn on” and become visible.

While there is a little more sunlight every day, sunrises are still very late coming; the latest for the year is actually on the 4th (the earliest sunset was back on Dec. 7; see me in person for the crazy explanation of why those events don’t occur at the solstice).

Only Mars remains in the evening sky as the great planet show of 2020 winds down quickly into the new year. Jupiter and Saturn continue to sink lower and set earlier each night as Earth speeds away from the two-gas giant, leaving them directly behind the sun and out of sight by month’s end. Venus continues to beam brightly as the Morning Star for early risers.

The first quarter moon slides below Mars on the 20th and 21st. Without leaves on the trees, the Full Wolf Moon on the 28th will seem much brighter than full moons in warmer seasons; winter full moonlight walks are a delight, with any snow cover a bonus.

Earth reaches perihelion early on Jan. 2nd, the closest we get to the sun for the entire year. Closer to the sun means we travel faster through space and why winter, although it may not feel like it, is the shortest season. Another reminder: It’s our tilt, not our solar distance, driving Earth’s seasonal changes.

Earth’s tilted axis also wobbles, shifting “traditional” zodiacal dates about a month from when established in ancient times. The sun is well into Sagittarius to kick off January, moving into Capricorn on the 20th.

This past Sunday I noticed something seldom seen this year, the sky crisscrossed with contrails. They consist of condensation trails high in the atmosphere, from jet exhaust carrying people home from Christmas gatherings. In a more normal year, this is a normal sight, but this year it is likely continuing the spread of a virus we should have, could have, but still have not controlled.

Yet, amazing scientific advances have produced COVID-19 vaccines in record time. Let’s roll up our sleeves, America, and get vaccinated, while still keeping our distance and our faces covered, and get this killer under control, moving our country and world toward safer and more normal days in 2021.

Randy Holladay is a retired Louisa County High School earth science teacher.

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