Happy New Year everybody! After a leap year and second, the Earth began another trip around the sun. The Earth has already completed roughly 4.55 billion such trips, and still has at least another 5 or 6 billion to go.
There is no magic gatepost in space that says that today should mark the start or end of Earth's orbit. Earth's orbit is, after all, a nearly perfect circle. The date of the new year was set in the Roman Senate in 153 BC (no word if the Roman Senate was influenced by a powerful or rich Janus-worshipping lobby).
By sheer coincidence, the date of January 1 in our modern calendar is only a few days different from the Earth's closest approach to the sun (January 4 at 9am EST this year). More on that in a few days.
This year starts off busy. It is the International Year of Astronomy (see my next post), and the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society starts Sunday in Long Beach, California, preceded by a meeting of my fellow National Science Foundation Astronomy and Astrophysics fellows. I'll be bringing news from there as time allows.
At any rate, like many of you, I am happy to have a fairly bleak 2008 behind me and a fresh new year ahead. I am, at heart, an incurable optimist, though I often disguise it with a thick layer of sarcasm. So, although I'd never admit it, I believe that our best days lie ahead. So, I might as well get started on that bright future today.