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From the President's Desk: Leslie Petter

Posted on Monday, December 21, 2020

Dear ARCS Atlanta Members,

I am hoping for a clear sky tonight, December 21st, so we can see the Great Conjunction, the near alignment, of Jupiter and Saturn.  It will be the closest visible connection of the two planets since 1226 A.D.  Naturally, this connection is all about perspective.  It is the result of the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn coming into line, as seen from the perspective of Earth.  We perceive their connection, even though we know they are some 400 million miles apart.

Connection and perspective have been on my mind now that 2020 is drawing to a close.  The challenges of 2020 have been obvious, but looking at them from a different perspective, I can see that they have also created a connection between us – the bond of having survived this year together – ironically, while separated.

I have always thought that physical proximity was key to connection.  This year has taught me otherwise.  Perspective can create connection, as well.

The other day, I met our precious and brilliant scholar, Sarah Strassler, for the first time via Zoom.  We talked about her research, our lives, our interests, our experiences.  We connected, as certainly as we would have over a cup of tea.  Our 40-year age difference, our different educational backgrounds (Sarah: RNA-protein interactions, me: poetry), our childhoods spent on opposite sides of the world – all this fell away because we discovered our similar perspective on the basics - curiosity, communication, and a sense of wonder.  Our shared perspective created the connection.

Tonight, science will treat us to another example of connection through perspective - the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn.  The solar system is mirroring what many of us have experienced – a closeness while separate, not 400 million miles perhaps, but separate, nonetheless.  As with Jupiter and Saturn, it is all about perspective.

With my fondest wishes to all of you for a warm and happy holiday season,


P.S.  If you want to look for the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, look to the west about 45 minutes after sunset.  Jupiter will be the brightest and Saturn will be a little above and to the left.