Hours of Dark

Is it day yet?

December 21st is the winter solstice. It is the shortest day of the year. I am not sure when the sun is officially, ‘up’ because there is quite a bit of topography blocking the horizon. But it is bright enough to see what you are doing by about 11:30am and dark again by about 2pm.

Polar night is when night lasts longer than 24 hours and according to wikipedia ‘occurs inside the polar circles.’ For their definition night is understood as the sun being half way or more below the horizon. During this time we also have a longer twilight period than other areas, again because of the suns angle of movement. And because of the refraction, reflections, and depth below the horizon there is a significant period of blue twilight in the morning and late afternoon making outside activities still possible for several hours a day.

Blue twilight

Axial_tilt_vs_tropical_and_polar_circles.svg.pngThere is lots and lots of latitudes and measurements out describing day lengths. As far as I can tell above the arctic circle 66°33′46.0 the sun is at least partially obscured (doesn’t fully rise) at least one day a year. Above 66°83′46.0 it doesn’t break the horizon at all at least once a yearAxial_tilt_vs_tropical_and_polar_circles.svg.png

My being 66°53′9.0 means that on the solstice the sun is only about half way above the horizon, and probably does not come completely above it for at least several days on either side of the solstice. But that is complicated as I said by topography, it may be hidden behind mountains or it may be visible from a higher elevation. And due to the low angle it may be half visible for an hour traveling across the horizon before disappearing again.

High noon in December

Regardless it is important to remember that the months of night are not months of uninterrupted dark since light can be seen even if the sun is not fully risen, like the twilight before sunrise. We are currently in that part of winter in which the ‘daylight’ we are enjoying for a few hours a day is really more like a soft glow than day.

As of the beginning of December I go to work in the dark and go home in the dark. To be fair I go to work at 7 and it has been dark that early for some time but only recently have I been missing out on the light after school. From November to February any light we get is during the school day. This means that I really only see the light if I can get out at lunch, which any teachers reading this will laugh at, and on weekends.

Some people find the lack of light difficult and depressing. More than anything I find it irritating as I would like to go for a hike or ski or hunt or anything outdoors-y but don’t really want to in the dark. For me it is really not that different than in high school in WA when I was taking extra classes. I had the same predicament of going to school in the dark and coming home in the dark. For all intensive purposes the sun could have been up any time I am not outside for all I knew, which would be almost 9 hours a day at this point.



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