Fingers held between the sun and horizon to estimate time until sunset, August 17, 2018.
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Timekeeping with Fingers and Sun

Fingers held between the sun and horizon to estimate time until sunset, August 17, 2018.
Fingers held between the sun and horizon to estimate time until sunset, August 17, 2018.

When I was a kid, someone taught me a nifty little timekeeping technique involving my fingers and the sun.

If you hold your fingers between the setting sun and the horizon, you can estimate the time for full sunset by counting 15 minutes for each of your fingers between the sun and the horizon line. For the photo above, there are 4 fingers between the sun and horizon, so there is about an hour before sunset. If you have 3 fingers between the sun and horizon, you’ve got 45 minutes before the sun sets.

I’m not sure who figured out this trick, but it works pretty well. When you’re a kid and you have to get home before sunset but don’t have a watch or smartphone, the technique is a handy one (pun intended).

My husband, who suggested I blog about this timekeeping method for The Pragmatic Historian because of my obsession with photographing clocks, is the hand model in the photo. Do you know how hard it is to hold your phone in one hand and try to take a photo of your other outstretched hand with it? Pretty much impossible.

Thanks to my husband for the post idea and for being my model.

And, yes, it was about an hour before the sun set on this August evening.