Humanity has romanticised sunrises and sunsets. Volumes of stories and poetry have been written regarding mornings and evenings, even afternoons are highly regarded. But only a handful of literature, plays, movies or even photography about noon come to most folks’ minds. I can think of only two titles at the top of my mind. “High Noon” and “Twelve O’Clock High”. I’m sure there are others, but I don’t recall them right now.
Noon is easy to define. Astronomical noon happens when the sun’s apparent position has reached the highest point in the sky during the daytime. Chronological noon is easier to know. It happens when the clock reads 12:00:00 PM. One second later is technically afternoon. But most people regard noon the same as noontime or the share of time between 12:00 PM and 1:00 PM. That definition is good enough for the purposes of this musing.
If you give noontime much thought, you realize that other planets must have noontimes, too. They also orbit the sun or other stars and rotate on an axis. I like to sometimes imagine what noontime on Mars appears to be. Better yet, what about noontime on Saturn? If I could withstand the immense gravitational pressures and poisonous atmosphere, I’d likely see a dot of a sun in a sky dominated by a large expanse of ring surface. It would be wonderful to see.
Noon on the moon is once each lunar month. Astronomical noon aboard the space station happens more than once per day, while chronological noon in that place is daily at 12:00 UTC.
Most of us consider noontime as lunchtime. Laborers look forward to their noontime breaks as a time to socialize awhile as they munch on their mid day meal. Maybe they have something at a fast food joint, or cafeteria. I wonder if there is still such a thing as the “Three martini lunch”. Some folks chow down on the job site with a brown bag packed with goodies from home.
School kids have mixed emotions about lunch. I remember with trepidation such things as “mystery meat” and “foil lunch”–a mixture of many ingredients, somehow cooked to a soggy, bland mess. I remember pouring half a bottle of ketchup onto it just to choke it down.
In the little town of my childhood, each noon, the fire whistle sounded for half-a-minute. In fact, I think the noon whistle still blows each day. Everything ground to a halt, except the kitchens and lunchrooms in the small town. The lunchladies dolloped out rations onto compartmented trays in the schools’ cafeterias. Waitresses took orders from businessmen. Stay at home moms served up something wholesome to their tykes and everyone else tore into their brown bags.
Noon is quite a concept. Morning instantly becomes afternoon. People take in sustanance and gear up for the remainder of the day. What an amazing tradition. However you practice it.
The Blue Jay of Happiness has a baseball quote for you today: “I got players with bad watches – they can’t tell midnight from noon.”–Casey Stengel