Standard Time

In the modern world, we use "Standard Time" in which the whole world is divided into 24 time zones. As a result, on any day of the year at any latitude, the times of actual sunrise and sunset vary depending on your location within a time zone -- the Sun rises and sets earlier in the eastern end of a time zone, and later in the western end of a time zone.

Standard Time and Daylight Savings are conveniences of our modern world, but this whole scheme tampers with the classical practices of astronomical timekeeping. Throughout history, time was measured according to "Sundial Time." "12 Noon" was simply the time when the Sun reached it's highest point in the sky, directly above Due South. Each person saw Noon at a unique time for that location. One sundial would point to Noon while a sundial 50 miles away would read differently by a few minutes.

This system worked fine until our current modern period where inventions of the telegraph and the railroad enabled high speed transportation and communication, requiring a common standard reference for telling time. The problem is, with the current system, the Sun no longer reaches its highest point in the sky at 12 Noon.

Nowadays with Standard Time and Daylight Savings, the Sun can reach "High Noon" in the sky as late as 1:30 PM. The modern system of timekeeping plays havoc with the natural order of "Sundial Time." Thus, timekeeping is now decoupled from God's natural timekeepers, the Sun and Moon. Perhaps this is one reason why so few people today understand or appreciate Classical Astronomy, since we no longer take our time directly from the Sun. Sundials can be corrected for Standard Time and Daylight Savings, but not many people today know the tricks. So nowadays most sundials are simply lawn decorations, but not useful as timekeepers.

Jay Ryan is the author of Signs & Seasons, an illustrated, Biblically-centered homeschool curriculum for Classical Astronomy. He is also the creator of the Classical Astronomy Update, an email astronomy newseltter especially for Christian homeschoolers.  Visit his website at

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