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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/506

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IT is a fact of common observation, at different times of the year, that the forenoon and afternoon, as to daylight, are of unequal length. Along in later autumn the shortness of the afternoons is very noticeable, and the shortness of forenoons along in later winter. Whatever makes common facts more intelligible adds to the general intelligence and to the general good. It is to this end that the following brief statements are made.

Nothing is more evident than that the sun requires just as much time to go from the eastern horizon to the midday meridian as to go from that meridian to the western horizon. But, strange to say, there are but four days during the whole year in which the sun reaches the midday meridian at just twelve o'clock. The true noon point varies from about fifteen minutes before to about sixteen minutes after twelve o'clock. These extreme points in one set of variations fall in the first week of November and in the second week of February, not to designate exact days for years in general.

The calendars show that in the latitude of Saratoga (essentially Boston latitude) on November 3, 1898, the sun rose at 6.30 and set at five o'clock, thereby making the forenoon a half hour longer than the afternoon. On that day the sun reached the midday meridian at 11.45. On February 13, 1899, the sun rose at just seven o'clock and set at 5.30, thereby making the afternoon a half hour longer than the forenoon, and on this day the sun reached the midday meridian at 12.15. These are facts plainly open to general view, and therefore need no verifying.

The causes of the foregoing are not so apparent to common observation. It must be borne in mind that the mean or average solar day is the basis for all time measurements, therefore its exact length is of the greatest importance. Yet the general solar day, from which the average one is derived, is a very indefinite term as to its length. Its length in general may be defined, under view of the sun's apparent motion, as the time extending from the instant that the sun's center crosses any given meridian of the earth on one day to the instant that center crosses the same meridian on the following day—i. e., the time intervening between these two instants is the length of a solar day.

The motion of the sun, however, is only apparent; the actual motion is in the earth's revolution upon its axis. We should have one day a year long if the earth did not revolve on its axis at all,