From the May 2013 issue

10 new holidays

July 2013: If hot dogs get an annual celebration, so should these astronomy-related subjects.
By | Published: May 28, 2013
Earth Day has come and gone. But why be so parochial? Shouldn’t we also have a Sun Day and a Moon Day and even a Saturn Day? Wait, we already have those — even if few care enough about word origins to deliberately observe the ringed planet on Saturday or use a solar telescope on Sunday.

Because you never can have too many holidays, here’s a bunch more we astronomy and nature geeks might propose.

Voyager Day. The greatest spacecraft deserve a tribute. The twin Voyagers explored four planets, gave us our only close views of Uranus and Neptune, discovered lots of new moons, and still function 35 years after launch. Both continue transmitting valuable data as they now leave the solar system. And they have laser discs with Bach and Chuck Berry to keep gleanings of our planet alive through the eons. Hopefully, any rock-music-hating aliens that find one won’t use its attached “Earth locator chart” to obliterate us.

Mitochondria Month. They dwell within each of our cells. Our lives depend on them. They have their own DNA, and a few theorists have even suggested that they originated independently of other terrestrial life and then took up residence inside our bodies. It’s been a happy symbiotic relationship ever since. We give mitochondria a home while they provide us with energy by producing something called ATP. The reason we feel groggy first thing in the morning is because they’re still not fully awake and up to speed. It’s a fact: You can’t feel good unless your mitochondria are happy, too. Let’s annually honor these critters that live inside us.

Pluto Commemorative Day. Pluto has vanished from planet posters, but millions still mourn. If there’s a Mosquito Day (every August 20), there’s room for a yearly moment of silence to salute the ex-planet, retired like so many other Disney characters.

Pannotia and Rodinia Day. Long before we mammals covered the planet with sitcoms and rats, there were supercontinents. Everyone’s heard of Pangaea, where the dinosaurs mostly lived. But the earlier supercontinents remain neglected, even though Pannotia was Earth’s sole landmass during our planet’s most important event (see next holiday). And before that, the mighty Rodinia ruled, even if its name is rarely uttered at parties anymore.


Cambrian Explosion Week. Earthly life existed for 3½ eons but was invisible until just 600 million years ago. Suddenly and mysteriously, life went from single-celled to the large multicelled creatures we see today. This biological complexity happened abruptly in an event called the Cambrian Explosion. It was the most important development on Earth, ever. Why do we not commemorate it? Is it less worthy than Hot Dog Month every July?

Supernova Awareness Day. Our planet would contain nothing but boring hydrogen and helium were it not for long-ago supernovae. Our bodies have exciting things like iodine inside them only because such elements were forged in the fantastic temperatures of exploding stars, then hurled through space right into what became our thyroid glands. Shouldn’t we receive a day off work to honor those long-dead stars that gave up their lives so we might get tattoos and do sudoku puzzles?

Magnetosphere Month. What does Earth have that Venus and Mars don’t? A magnetic field, that’s what. Without it, you’d kiss all those beautiful aurorae goodbye. If tapioca pudding gets a commemorative day (every July 15), shouldn’t our world’s protective force field get at least as much respect?

Telescope Frustration Week. Misaligned optics. Balky tracking. Icy winds, buzzing mosquitoes, light pollution. Don’t telescope users deserve the same statues as baseball Hall of Famers? It’s time to honor those who have sacrificed their nights and even their marriages in a futile attempt to see all the Messier objects.

Magma Month. Earth’s continents change position because they float like pond scum. We are all supported by untold tons of unappreciated liquid magma. If you’re happy being here on the surface, it’s time to give magma the respect it deserves. Let’s swap out this month’s National Lasagna Day for a major magma memorial.

Vacuum Appreciation Week. Most of the universe is nothingness. We praise nature yet usually ignore the emptiness that is its largest component. Without it, stuff would be impossibly crammed together and we wouldn’t be able to observe anything. The vacuum is absolutely vital. Moreover, people like Galileo put their lives in jeopardy by arguing for its existence. Let’s salute them each year by celebrating nothing.

We’ve only scratched the surface. How about a “Milky Way Galaxy Gala” and an “Oxygen Appreciation Week”? Perhaps you, dear reader, will send suggestions. Let’s publicize the universe’s most epic but neglected objects and events. We’ll slip them in each July right around Cow Appreciation Day.
Here goes nothing.

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