I don't know about you, but I really needed that faux extra hour of sleep this morning. I attended the Aurora Summit 2021 in Wisconsin this weekend and didn't get back home until 1 a.m. My colleagues stayed up even later, with a few of them welcoming the end of Daylight Saving Time (DST) at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning the 7th.
We all know that dropping DST means we lose an hour of sunshine in the evening. Where the sun set at at 5:45 p.m. on Saturday the 6th, today it absconds at 4:44 p.m. But the light taken at dusk got repaid at dawn, with the sun rising an hour earlier today. No surprise, the time change also shifts the positions of the constellations by an hour.
Last night (Nov. 6), I watched Orion the Hunter rise over Lake Superior at 10:30-11 p.m., a time when most of us start thinking about going to bed. Tonight, Orion comes up in the southeastern sky one hour earlier — around 9:30 p.m. — so you can see his three signature belt stars before the 10 o'clock news.
All stars in the east now rise an hour earlier, while those in the west set an hour earlier. Western stars include the Summer Triangle asterism outlined by Deneb (Cygnus the Swan), Vega (Lyra the Harp) and Altair (Aquila the Eagle), along with the summertime Milky Way. Both the Milky Way and Northern Cross now stand upright in a dark western sky at 6:30 p.m.. instead of 7:30.
Those who know Orion are glad at its return, but in the next breath express concern at winter's imminent arrival. Orion is the harbinger of the upcoming season and not a few of us feel a little chill when we first see it rise. But something in me rejoices at the hunter's return as he crunches his way up the sky again. The constellation is beautiful to look at and makes a wonderful addition to a landscape if you're doing night photography.
Tonight, the crescent moon returns to the evening sky to the right of the planet Venus. That should be a pretty sight. If you have clear skies be sure to watch between 15 and 45 minutes after sunset.
As the moon waxes in the coming nights it will slowly brighten the landscape. Why not use its light to paint the foreground in a photo that includes Orion? From Nov. 11-14, the moon will grow from half to three-quarters and occupy the sky with Orion, yet stay far enough away from the constellation to not produce unwanted glare. Here's a little how-to on how to make a photo in moonlight.
First, attach your camera to a tripod, then find a tree or other natural landmark for your foreground element and include Orion in the upper part of the camera frame. If you don't have a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera with live view for focusing, that's OK. The moon is big and bright enough to auto-focus on. Once it's in focus, set your camera lens to manual mode (M or MF) so it won't accidentally auto-focus on something else. There's usually a small switch on the barrel to do this. Then make sure the camera itself is in manual (M) mode.
A medium-wide to wide-angle lens — from 14 mm to 35 mm — will let you include both a foreground scene and Orion near the top. You'll want go grab the maximum amount of light, so set the lens to "wide-open" by turning the f/stop dial or knob to the smallest number. Yours might be 2.8, 3.5, 4 or 4.5. Then punch up the camera sensitivity, called ISO number, to 800 and set the shutter speed to 15 seconds.
After your first photo, check the view on the camera's backscreen. Too bright? Cut the exposure time to 10 or 8 seconds. Too dim? Increase the time to 20-30 seconds or set the ISO to 1600. I hope you'll try this little photo project in coming two weeks and share your success on the Astro Bob Facebook page.
"Astro" Bob King is a freelance writer for the Duluth News Tribune. Read more of his work at duluthnewstribune.com/astrobob.