A Cosmic Spin on the CCA’s 75th Anniversary Year

January 17, 2024

David Scharf, CCA President

Happy new year 2024! This year is not just any year for the CCA. 2024 marks our 75th anniversary. You will see more about this milestone anniversary throughout the year, but for this month’s blog post I want to share my reflections on the concept of an anniversary.

To get started, let’s look at the word’s definition. According to my good old 1986 hardcover Merriam-Webster dictionary, an “anniversary” is defined as “the annual recurrence of a date marking a notable event.”*  Of course, the “annual” we are referring to is the time it takes the Earth to make one revolution around the Sun. (I’ll spare you the reference to Copernicus’s De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.)

On any given anniversary day, the Earth finds itself at the same spot in its orbit around the Sun as it did the previous year on that very day.** One well-known anniversary date – the very date I referenced in my opening – is New Year’s Day. However, there is an even more recent anniversary date that celebrates the unique position of Earth in its orbit, and that is Perihelion Day. On January 2, 2024, the Earth was at its closest point to the Sun in its yearly orbit.*** Even cooler to me, it was also at its fastest speed, a whopping 67,780 mph. (This time I will spare you the reference to Johannes Kepler’s second law of planetary motion.)

Regardless of the occasion, anniversaries are inherently ‘local’, holding meaning within a specific context or relationship. To use our example, Perihelion Day as the relationship between Earth and Sun. (On the ‘global’ level, the other planets are not in the same orbital position relative to Earth’s annual cycle.)  Or to bring this back down to earth, a wedding anniversary as the relationship between spouses. These milestones serve as a marker in time, a time to appreciate and reflect on the past year and look forward to the next. An anniversary carries deep meaning to those to whom it is ‘local’, making it uniquely special on a personal level.

Which brings us back to the CCA’s anniversary. Our relationship is between our members. While the wider world might be unaware of our anniversary, for us it is something special to celebrate. A time to appreciate and reflect on our accomplishments while also envisioning our next 75 years. And each of you – through your participation and engagement at CCA events and in advancing our profession – is a part of what makes this anniversary, and all our anniversaries to come, truly special.

*Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. Merriam-Webster Inc, 1986, p. 87. A quick search of the online Merriam-Webster dictionary shows that the definition has (not surprisingly) not changed in the intervening 38 years.

**For you space enthusiasts out there (myself included), I know what you are thinking: it’s not the exact same spot since our actual “solar year” is 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds longer than our “calendar year” of 365 days; and don’t even get me into the slightly even longer “sidereal year”.

***The date of perihelion can slightly change each year. For example, for 2025, 2026 and 2027, the perihelion will take place on January 4, January 3 and January 2, respectively. This is not simply due to the length of the “solar year” (see above footnote), but to the Earth-Moon barycenter. In case it was not already obvious, I love astronomy!