January 20, 2020

31.10.09:Daylight Saving Time: Is it Really Worth it?

Tomorrow, at 2AM, astronomers throughout North America can rejoice; daylight saving time (DST) ends for most areas that observe it in Canada and the U.S. as we revert back to ye ole’ standard time. This means observers will no longer have to undergo the long nightly process of sleep deprivation to await dark skies. Indeed, from northern tier states, it can be well past 10pm in mid-summer before its considerably dark! Ah….bring on the darkness. But this also brings up the following is issue….do we REALLY need daylight savings time at all? Allow us to approach the virtual soapbox, if you will. Daylight saving was first famously proposed by Benjamin Franklin and established in the US after World War I. Benefits sited at the time were energy conservation, as well as optimizing daylight hours to coincide with peak productivity periods. These days, public safety is also noted. In 2005, the Energy Policy Act was signed into law by president George W. Bush, rolling daylight saving back even further, currently spanning from the 2nd Sunday in March to the 1st Sunday in November. Granted, this may be way down some people’s lists of enduring offenses committed by the Bush administration, but the damage has been done. This year’s shift represents the earliest that we can potentially “fall back,” as November 1st is a Sunday. In agrarian times, this curious system might have made sense; each local hamlet set its own time, and primary reliance was on sunlight for human activities. But in a global, 24 hour civilization, is this idiosyncrasy for the past really required? Claims of energy savings are dubious; how about smarter night-time lighting policies? Some states, such as Arizona and parts of Indiana have done away with DST all together, and the Apocalypse has yet to rain down on them. In northern areas such as our native Maine and Alaska, DST is sort of a moot point, as the gathering winter darkness always ultimately wins. Let’s say “Down with DST,” in an effort to bring back sanity and our dark skies. Let’s step forward into the 21st century! Anyway, that’s our 2 cents…we here at Astroguyz would do away with all time-zones as well, but that’s another post…see you in Standard Time-land!


An Arctic Moon?

 Everybody knows that north of the arctic circle, the sun can stay above the horizon for months at a time… but what about the Moon? Living in North Pole, Alaska, at latitude 64.5 north for four years, I know that the path of the Moon can do some bizzare things, as well! I decided to run the simulation below in Starry Night to find out;     

Arctic Moon Simulation. (Credit: Starry Night).

Note: If the above link isn’t visible in your browser, click here!

    The site setup for the above video was Alert, Canada at north latitude 82.5 north. The simulation was sped up to x3000 real time speed. Full Moon itself occurs the night of December 12th-13th, but running the Moon through simulation, it never rises or sets! In fact, “moonrise” from Alert is 10:14 AM local on the 7th of December, and “moonset” doesn’t occur until 2:40 PM local on the 17th! This is because during those two weeks, the Moon occupies roughly the same spot on the ecliptic that the Sun does during and around the summer solstice. The phenomena of the midnight sun runs down to about latitude 66.56 degrees north, (just north of Fairbanks, Alaska), but that of the “midnight Moon” runs down to  about latitude 61.42 degrees north, just north of the town of Wasilla (of Palin fame!) Alaska. This is because in addition to the tilt of the Earth, the Moon’s orbit is inclined an additional 5.1 degrees!

   In the southern hemisphere, the same is true, although at opposite times of year… also, keep your eyes out during the time lapse video for a cool occultation of the Pleiades!