Bye, Bye DST, Hello Orion

1918 post card that citizens could mail to their congressman to show support for the daylight saving time law, which was enacted on March 19, 1918 in the U.S. Click to read the history of DST. Credit: Library of Congress
1918 post card that citizens could mail to their congressman to show support for the daylight saving time law, which was enacted on March 19, 1918 in the U.S. Click to read the history of DST. Credit: Library of Congress

Is it that time already? Tonight we throw off the shackles of Daylight Saving Time and turn our clocks back one hour. It’s nice getting that extra hour of sleep, but I never make up for it by going to bed earlier Sunday night. Instead, when it’s 11 0’clock (midnight in DST-speak) I figure it’s still too early, stay up the extra hour and waste my 60-minute gift.

Face east this evening around 9 p.m. local time and you'll only see a slice of Orion. Compare to the view tomorrow evening at the same clock time below. Stellarium
Face east this evening around 9 p.m. local time and you’ll only see a slice of Orion. Compare to the view tomorrow evening at the same clock time below. Stellarium

Outside of getting used to a slightly altered biological rhythm, losing DST affects how and when we view the night sky. For instance, if your sky is clear tonight and you face east around 9 p.m., you’ll see the topmost bright star in Orion, Betelgeuse, poking over the eastern horizon. But you’ll have to wait an addition hour for the full constellation to rise.

On Sunday night, Orion's up early thanks to our return to standard time. Stellarium
On Sunday night, Orion’s up early thanks to our return to standard time.  It’s all sleight of hand with the clock but fun to see the difference from one night to the night during the time transition. Stellarium

Tomorrow night, without DST in effect, Orion will be in full view at 9 p.m. Losing daylight time means that 10 p.m. tonight is the same as 9 p.m. tomorrow night. Every November, losing DST gives all the stars in the eastern sky a leg up. They’re a full hour’s worth of time higher up in the sky. What about the western sky constellations? Yes, you guessed it. They all set an hour sooner.

Mars and the banana moon tonight Nov. 5 in late twilight. Stellarium
Mars and the banana moon tonight Nov. 5 in late twilight. Stellarium

It’s a philosophical thing. If you feel like shaking off the old and hurrying in the new, when it comes to stars, the November return to standard time is your friend. While you’re out tonight checking on the mechanics of all this, be sure to face south-southwest in twilight and early evening to catch sight of the thick crescent moon not far from the planet Mars.

Clear skies!