Spring forward, fall back

By David Baumgartner
Trying to remember twice a year which way to turn the clocks,
forward or backward, was very hard for me, let alone remembering
when to do it. I had heard something about spring forward or fall
back, but of course had no idea what people were talking about, nor
did I really care.
By David Baumgartner

Trying to remember twice a year which way to turn the clocks, forward or backward, was very hard for me, let alone remembering when to do it. I had heard something about spring forward or fall back, but of course had no idea what people were talking about, nor did I really care.

Until one day when I was talking with a young boy, and we got into the discussion of changing the time twice a year. He told me he had a hard time remembering which way to turn them until his Mother told him, when he was eight, all about “spring forward for spring, and fall back in the fall.” Then I thought to myself; that’s what everyone has been talking about all this time, and what a neat way to remember.

Immediately after catching on, I responded to the youth that I was completely aware of that system. What had really bothered me though was the fact that he learned about it when he was eight, and it took me until I was … well, never mind how old I was.

So, to get to the point where I could say I knew a little more about the subject than the youngster, I did some reading on the matter. It seems that on every first Sunday in April the clocks are moved forward one hour, from standard time to summer (“Daylight Saving”) time. The mnemonic (there’s another new word for me) is: “spring forward, fall back.”

You are supposed to do it at 2am on Sunday! I wonder how many people actually get up at 2am and change their clocks? You may want to do it on Saturday evening; for example, if the clock reads 10, change it to 11. On this night, officially there is no clock hour between 2am and 3am. You will be getting up an hour earlier, because the Sun too is getting up earlier.

All summer, it is as if you are displaced one time-zone to the east, with the Sun at it’s highest about 11, not 12. The change is not made in American Samoa, Hawaii, most of Arizona and Indiana, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

In Britain this change is made a week earlier, on the last Sunday in March. The last Sunday in October is when the clocks are put back to approximately natural time – better know as “fall back.” It’s starting to make sense now, huh?

From 1966 to 1986, with some wild variations in 1974-76, clocks were changed on the last Sunday in April; in 1986 the rule was changed yet again by the U.S. Congress; the fall back on the last Sunday in October was not changed. Thankfully, this information was acquired from the 2005 Astronomical Calendar.

With all this good rain we have received lately, the viewing of the heavens hasn’t been its best. But you must trust me when I say it will get better. It just has to.

When the clouds do part, you will want to take a look at Saturn in the constellation Gemini the Twins, lurking high in the sky at night. And don’t forget Jupiter trailing right behind in the constellation Virgo. This is a great time to see each one of these wonders at their best.

The famous Lyrid meteor showers peak on the 22nd, but the presence of the full Moon all but washes them out.

On April 8, after an absence of 18 years, the rarest type of solar eclipse returns to Earth. Far south of us in Central America an Annular eclipse will occur. An Annular eclipse happens when our Moon lies just far enough from the Earth that it can’t cover the whole Sun.

The viewers there will see what is called the ring of fire, a thin ring of sun left around the Moon. It is so rare that I am forced to go to Panama and witness it for myself. Never having been farther south than King City before, I think my daughter and I will enjoy it. I will let you know.

David Baumgartner is in local real estate and is an avid amateur astronomer. His Sky Watch column appears monthly.

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