Out of This World

Happy 37th birthday!

No, not for me: On the straightaway I can see a small cloud of dust that marks the approach of {37 x 2}. No, not for my children: even for them, 37 is so far in their rearview mirrors that they would need to squint to see its fast-disappearing tail.

No, this celebration is for Mars.

Now, you might be thinking, “Hey! Mars is older than 37. Isn’t it?” And you would be right. Indeed, like our solar system’s other small planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth), Mars is a LOT older than 37: it’s about 4.55 billion years old. (By contrast, the larger planets formed about 4.59 billion years ago, and while .04 may not seem like a consequential difference, that amounts to a gap of 40 million years which pretty much eliminated any sibling rivalry.)

However, these 4.55 billion years are not represented in the calendars of *any* of the planets in our solar system. Earth, for example, uses many kinds of calendars, but not one of them includes a New Year’s Eve celebration for Year 4,550,000,001 in just under two weeks.

I cannot find that any other planet has a year of this sort assigned to it, which raises the question of why one was assigned to Mars in Earth Year (EY) 1955.

For purposes of enumerating Mars years and facilitating data comparisons, a system increasingly used in the scientific literature, particularly studies of Martian climate, enumerates years relative to the northern spring equinox (Ls 0) that occurred on April 11, 1955, labeling that date the start of Mars Year 1 (MY1). The system was first described in a paper focused on seasonal temperature variation by R. Todd Clancy of the Space Science Institute. – Timekeeping on Mars

Well, OK, but why was Mars special? Don’t scientists want to facilitate data comparisons for other planets? Dunno. After R. Todd Clancy took the fateful plunge, I suspect that this system just grew in use because the relevant folks found it use-ful: an encouragement to all of us to throw things out there. Who knows what might happen?

Be the change you want to see in the world.
Or the solar system.

In any event, we don’t need to understand all the details to be able to celebrate the arrival of MY 37, which will start on EY 2022 Dec 26, also called Boxing Day by the locals. It’s sort of a shame that it overlaps Christmas this year, but I have confidence that with this warning we’re up for the challenge.

Don’t miss it: Your next opportunity–MY 38–won’t be until EY 2024 Nov 12.


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2 Responses to Out of This World

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    Year 29 in this house. Year 3 without Joan. Year 39 since Stephen died. Year 41 since Ralph and I started Wood Lake Books (he says it’s 42; the company claims this year is 40th anniversary).

    So many milestones set along life’s highway. Sometimes it’s good to go back over “the road less travelled,” to steal a line from Robert Frost. Sometimes it’s worth letting those route markers sink into the mud.

    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – Yes, marking/remembering the past can’t become trying to live there. Again, easier to call than to run.

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