I was surprised several nights ago when I saw that Orion already tipping over in the west by 10:30 p.m. Is winter really on its way out? With a snowstorm in today’s forecast, I doubt it, but daylight saving time (DST) begins tomorrow, so spring must be close, right? As we set your clocks forward an hour tonight, we artificially shift the balance of day and night, taking an hour from the morning and adding it on to the evening. Tonight the sun sets around 6 p.m. for many localities; tomorrow night it lingers until 7. Likewise, this morning’s 6:30 a.m. sunrise becomes Sunday’s 7:30 a.m. sunrise.
The time shift also affects the positions of the stars as read by your clock. We can check those positions using the meridian as a reference. The meridian a great circle in the sky that begins at the due south point of the southern horizon, passes directly overhead and continues to the due north point of the northern horizon. It circles back under the Earth and meets itself again at the southern horizon. When a star crosses the meridian, it reaches its highest point in the sky.
Tonight at 8 p.m. standard time, Orion stands more than a fist to the right (west) of the meridian in a dark sky, but tomorrow night at 8 p.m., it’s only a couple degrees west of the meridian. The change to daylight time “pulls back” the constellations, in effect delaying Orion’s setting by an hour. And not just Orion but every constellation west of the meridian. Likewise, daylight time delays the rising of every constellation in the eastern sky by an hour. putting the reigns on Orion. Arcturus will be up at 9 tonight, but we’ll have to wait till 10 to see it Sunday night.
In the end, by setting our clocks forward, we actually artificially stall the progress of the seasonal stars an hour. A lot of people I know love the return of daylight time for its extra hour of evening light, forcing spring as it were. But the fuss of bouncing back and forth between daylight and standard time rattles others. Last year, California legislators to put the issue to the voters last year. The people spoke and chose to keep daylight time the entire year. Now, the legislature has to agree with a two-thirds majority to approve it or not. Even if it is approved, nothing will happen because the Uniform Time Act of 1966 stipulates that states that observe DST must “begin and end on federally mandated dates.” Because California would still observe daylight time (permanently), it would be in conflict with federal law’s mandated dates.
They could have opted out like Arizona and Hawaii did but chose not to because of pressure from youth sports leagues that would lose daylight for evening games and practice. What beast have we unleashed on the world?