The Fading Light

August 2, 2007

Even though we are still in the hot, humid, hazy (and lazy) days of summer, August is a month of change. Heat waves are less and less frequent, and even though we go on our day-to-day lives basking in the warm sun, unconsciously we know that as the heat wanes, so does summer, gradually giving way to crisp autumn days.

One of the big, noticeable changes in August is that this is the month where we lose sunlight like it’s running down a drain. Now, as astronomers, we love the darkness, but we wistfully revel in the long days of summer.

Case in point. Yesterday, August 1st, the sun set here at 9.04pm EDT. On August 31st, the sun will set at 8.19pm! We’ll lose 45 minutes of sunlight in the evening. Sunrise yesterday was 6.33am, sunrise on the 31st? 7.05am. Another 1/2 hour lost. So in the month of August, we lost 1.25 hours of sunlight (we also lose daylight, which is a story for a future date).

But on the plus side there is more darkness in which to observe the wonders of the night skies. Which is always good.

So when you’re out in the evenings, take note of when the sun sets, and how it changes each day throughout the month. Likewise, if you’re an early-bird, notice the changes in the time of sunrise, as we slide inevitably toward fall.