November 15, 2019

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!

 

Astronomical Observing in the Military.

The military has enabled me to observe astronomical phenomena from some unique locales. My interest in astronomy has waxed and waned (pun intended) all of my life. I’ve basically been looking at the sky since I’ve been old enough to look at anything. [Read more...]

The Coolest Thing I Ever Saw: The 1998 Leonid Meteor Shower

Late 1998 was a busy time for me. As a Staff Sergeant in the US Air Force, I was old enough to have some responsibility in the form of supervising my own load crew but still low enough down the totem pole that virtually all of supervision sat squarely above me. I was stationed at Eielson Air Force base in Alaska with the 18th Fighter Squadron as a Aircraft Armament Systems specialist, a fancy way of saying that I loaded bombs. When I wasn’t destroying things, Astronomy was my main passion. Astronomy in Alaska was really a seasonal sport; winter was blistering cold, down to -60 degrees Fahrenheit and summer was constant daylight. This limited dark sky observing to about two month windows around either equinoxes. [Read more...]