The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Nerdy but possibly welcome update

Even though we've just gotten our first snowfall, and today has started giving us snow, freezing rain, sleet, and icy roads, there is good news.

January 27th is when things officially start looking brighter in Chicago every year. Tonight, for the first time in almost two months, the sun sets at 5pm. Then things start to become noticeably brighter: a 7am sunrise next Monday, a 5:30pm sunset two weeks after that, then a 6:30am sunrise less than a week later.

Yes, this is dorky, but trust me: you'll notice it now.

Chicago sunrise chart, 2013

Here's the semi-annual Chicago sunrise chart. (You can get one for your own location at http://www.wx-now.com/Sunrise/SunriseChart.aspx.)

Date Significance Sunrise Sunset Daylight
2013
3 Jan Latest sunrise until Oct 28th 07:19 16:33 9:13
27 Jan 5pm sunset 07:08 17:00 9:52
4 Feb 7am sunrise 07:00 17:10 10:10
20 Feb 5:30pm sunset 06:39 17:31 10:52
26 Feb 6:30am sunrise 06:30 17:38 11:08
9 Mar Earliest sunrise until Apr. 14th
Earliest sunset until Oct. 28th
06:12 17:51 11:38
10 Mar Daylight savings time begins
Latest sunrise until Oct. 22nd
Earliest sunset until Sept. 20th
07:11 18:52 11:41
17 Mar 7am sunrise, 7pm sunset
12-hour day
06:59 19:00 12:01
20 Mar Equinox 06:02 CDT 06:54 19:04 12:10
3 Apr 6:30am sunrise (again) 06:30 19:19 12:49
13 Apr 7:30pm sunset 06:13 19:30 13:16
22 Apr 6am sunrise 06:00 19:39 13:39
10 May 8pm sunset 05:36 20:00 14:24
15 May 5:30am sunrise 05:30 20:05 14:36
14 Jun Earliest sunrise of the year 05:15 20:28 15:12
21 Jun Solstice 00:04 CDT
8:30pm sunset
05:16 20:30 15:14
26 Jun Latest sunset of the year 05:17 20:31 15:13
2 Jul 8:30pm sunset 05:20 20:30 15:09
16 Jul 5:30am sunrise 05:30 20:24 14:53
9 Aug 8pm sunset 05:53 19:59 14:06
16 Aug 6am sunrise 06:00 19:49 13:49
29 Aug 7:30pm sunset 06:14 19:29 13:15
14 Sep 6:30am sunrise 06:30 19:02 12:31
15 Sep 7pm sunset 06:31 19:00 12:28
22 Sep Equinox, 15:44 CDT 06:39 18:48 12:09
25 Sep 12-hour day 06:42 18:43 12:00
2 Oct 6:30pm sunset 06:50 18:30 11:41
12 Oct 7am sunrise 07:00 18:14 11:13
21 Oct 6pm sunset 07:11 18:00 10:49
2 Nov Latest sunrise until 2 Nov 2016
Latest sunset until Mar 3rd
07:25 17:44 10:18
4 Nov Standard time returns
Earliest sunrise until Mar 1st
06:26 16:42 10:16
6 Nov 6:30 sunrise 06:30 16:39 10:09
15 Nov 4:30pm sunset 06:41 16:30 9:48
2 Dec 7am sunrise 07:00 16:21 9:20
8 Dec Earliest sunset of the year 07:06 16:20 9:13
21 Dec Solstice, 11:11 CST 07:15 16:23 9:07

You can get sunrise information for your location at wx-now.com.

Mark your calendars

Late next year, Earth could get the best show from a comet in decades:

By the end of summer [Comet Ison] will become visible in small telescopes and binoculars. By October it will pass close to Mars and things will begin to stir. The surface will shift as the ice responds to the thermal shock, cracks will appear in the crust, tiny puffs of gas will rise from it as it is warmed. The comet's tail is forming.

Slowly at first but with increasing vigour, as it passes the orbit of Earth, the gas and dust geysers will gather force. The space around the comet becomes brilliant as the ice below the surface turns into gas and erupts, reflecting the light of the Sun. Now Ison is surrounded by a cloud of gas called the coma, hundreds of thousands of miles from side to side. The comet's rotation curves these jets into space as they trail into spirals behind it. As they move out the gas trails are stopped and blown backwards by the Solar Wind.

By late November it will be visible to the unaided eye just after dark in the same direction as the setting Sun.

I expect we'll hear more about this as it gets closer.

Chicago sunrise chart, 2012-13

I'm a little late getting the semi-annual Chicago sunrise chart out this summer. Sorry. (You can get one for your own location at http://www.wx-now.com/Sunrise/SunriseChart.aspx.)

Date Significance Sunrise Sunset Daylight
2012
2 Jul 8:30pm sunset 05:20 20:30 15:09
16 Jul 5:30am sunrise 05:30 20:24 14:53
8 Aug 8pm sunset 05:53 20:00 14:06
16 Aug 6am sunrise 06:00 19:48 13:48
28 Aug 7:30pm sunset 06:13 19:30 13:16
13 Sep 6:30am sunrise 06:30 19:03 12:33
15 Sep 7pm sunset 06:33 19:00 12:28
22 Sep Equinox, 09:49 CDT 06:39 18:48 12:08
25 Sep 12-hour day 06:42 18:42 12:00
2 Oct 6:30pm sunset 06:50 18:30 11:40
13 Oct 7am sunrise 07:01 18:13 11:10
21 Oct 6pm sunset 07:11 18:00 10:48
3 Nov Latest sunrise until 2 Nov 2013
Latest sunset until Mar 2nd
07:27 17:42 10:15
4 Nov Standard time returns
Earliest sunrise until Feb 28th
06:28 16:41 10:13
6 Nov 6:30 sunrise 06:30 16:39 10:08
15 Nov 4:30pm sunset 06:41 16:30 9:49
1 Dec 7am sunrise 07:00 16:21 9:21
7 Dec Earliest sunset of the year 07:06 16:20 9:14
21 Dec Solstice, 05:12 CST 07:16 16:23 9:07
2013
3 Jan Latest sunrise until Oct 28th 07:19 16:33 9:13
27 Jan 5pm sunset 07:08 17:00 9:52
4 Feb 7am sunrise 07:00 17:10 10:10
20 Feb 5:30pm sunset 06:39 17:31 10:52
26 Feb 6:30am sunrise 06:30 17:38 11:08
9 Mar Earliest sunrise until Apr. 14th
Earliest sunset until Oct. 28th
06:12 17:51 11:38
10 Mar Daylight savings time begins
Latest sunrise until Oct. 22nd
Earliest sunset until Sept. 20th
07:11 18:52 11:41
17 Mar 7am sunrise, 7pm sunset
12-hour day
06:59 19:00 12:01
20 Mar Equinox 06:02 CDT 06:54 19:04 12:10
3 Apr 6:30am sunrise (again) 06:30 19:19 12:49
13 Apr 7:30pm sunset 06:13 19:30 13:16
22 Apr 6am sunrise 06:00 19:39 13:39
10 May 8pm sunset 05:36 20:00 14:24
15 May 5:30am sunrise 05:30 20:05 14:36
14 Jun Earliest sunrise of the year 05:15 20:28 15:12
21 Jun Solstice 00:04 CDT
8:30pm sunset
05:16 20:30 15:14
26 Jun Latest sunset of the year 05:17 20:31 15:13

You can get sunrise information for your location at wx-now.com.

Major solar event leads to aurorae tonight

The aurora borealis could be visible as far south as Chicago, Belfast, and Seattle tonight and tomorrow:

A significant event located on the Sun facing Earth took place on July 12. The effects of this event will begin to reach Earth early on the 14th of July GMT.

Observers in North America should watch for aurora on the nights of the 14th and 15th local time. Depending on the configuration of the disturbance, auroras may be visible as far south as the middle tier of states.

Activity may remain high also on the 16th. Auroras should be visible Southern New Zealand, Tasmania, and of course, Antarctica.

I've only seen aurorae from airplanes in flight over the polar regions. Obviously they're invisible from within the city of Chicago, but if I had a boat, tonight would be great for going out on the lake and looking for them.

Behold! For I shall eat the sun!

But only if you're near the Pacific:

The midwest might not have the best view but the annular solar eclipse will at least be partially visible from here. The southwest will have the best vantage point when the sun appears as a "ring of fire" when the moon passes between it and the earth on Sunday. The moon will cover about 95% of the sun's diameter during this event. The eclipse will follow a path 8500 miles long for about 3 and a half hours. The "ring of fire" spectacle will last up to 5 minutes depending on the vantage point. Six national parks in the west, including Redwoods National Park in California and Zion National Park in Utah, are enticing visitors by offering some of the best views since the eclipse track will drift right over the parks.

The eclipse starts in San Francisco at 17:16 PDT, reaches its maximum at 18:33, and ends at 19:40. Here's a map from the University of Manitoba:

Remember, don't look at the eclipse directly. It's an annular eclipse, so it will be dangerously bright if you look straight at it.

Update: NASA has an information page about this event.

Sunset at the bottom of the world

Researchers at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station have been watching the sun set for weeks. At the poles, the sun traces an excruciatingly slow corkscrew between equinoxes, first spiraling up to a point 23° above the horizon (only about as high as the sun gets in Chicago around 10am on December 21st) on the solstice, then slowly spiraling back down to the horizon over the next three months.

In about an hour from now, the last limb of the sun will slip below the south polar horizon, the twilight gradually fading for another three weeks. The sun won't appear again until September 20th.

Fourteen people will spend the next five months at Amundsen-Scott, with no possibility of leaving until the end of August.

Daylight saving time

I've never felt great about the Daylight Saving Time switch happening in the beginning of March, but here it is. Oddly, I have no trouble changing eleven or twelve time zones, but the one-hour change in the spring (but not the fall) always messes me up.

Anyway, if you live in the U.S. or Canada (excluding Arizona and Saskatchewan), it's probably an hour later than you think it is.

Time zone pet peeves

In general, people using words they don't understand, presumably to sound smart, drives me up a tree. In specific, I wish against reason that more people knew how time zones worked. Microsoft's Raymond Chen agrees:

One way of sounding official is to give the times during which the outage will take place is a very formal manner. "The servers will be unavailable on Saturday, March 17, 2012 from 1:00 AM to 9:00 AM Pacific Standard Time."

Did you notice something funny about that announcement?

On March 17, 2012, most of the United States will not be on Standard Time. They will be on Daylight Time. (The switchover takes place this weekend.)

Now, I'm one of the few people in the world who has implemented a complete time zone package for Windows systems, and regular readers will already know about my vocal defense of the Olson/IANA time zone database. So I don't expect most people to know the ins and outs of time zone abbreviations. But this is the point Chen makes, and I would like to make: if you don't know what you're writing, don't write it. Say "Central time" or "local Chicago time" instead of "Central Standard Time," if for no other reason than you'll be wrong about the latter 8 months out of the year.