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April 24, 2018

The Earth at Night

Here in Anchorage, as we celebrate the Winter Solstice, we’re noticing less and less difference between “day” and “night.” The concepts tend to blur when the sun sets before 4pm and peeks above the mountains around 11:30 in the morning. You wake up in the dark, commute in the dark, eat dinner when it’s dark, and fall asleep when it’s dark. To see the sun, you have to be intentional sometimes, and make an appointment.

Further north, it’s even worse, with the community of Barrow and areas on the North Slope plunged into complete darkness for 67 days, from November 18 to January 23.  By May 10, they’ll welcome the sun back for 87 days straight without setting. But it’s hard to remember summer days now.

So, Alaskans tend to obsess a little about the number of light minutes we lose a day, and whether the brief hours of daylight are cloudy or clear, and how close we are to the solstice. Dark is the elephant in the room. Public radio announces the change in light right after the weather. They used to withhold the information about time loss, only noting the exact minutes gained, and then falling silent after summer solstice. Recently, I’ve heard on the radio how many minutes we’ve lost a day. Maybe they think we can handle it now.

So, it’s nice to celebrate the Earth at night, instead of cursing the darkness. These high resolution composite images from NASA tell a fascinating tale. The Newsminer has some interesting tidbits on this.

Notice the intense bright lights of the Prudhoe Bay oilfields on Alaska’s North Slope compared to Anchorage, the state’s largest city, or to the tiny pinpricks of light from Cordova, Bethel, and Nome.




12 Responses to “The Earth at Night”
  1. whoami says:

    Consider this: During this time of darkness we have the opportunity to catch up on the sleep we missed during those 25-hours of sunlight because we set the clock ahead to catch that extra hour of sun. Hurry, hurry to catch up on your sleep, or you’ll be grumpy all next summer!

  2. mike from iowa says:

    If you sue the guv for more sunlight,your electric bills should go down considerably. Just saying.

  3. John says:

    And then there is June, when I get sun in windows on all four sides of the house.

  4. Cathy Heyworth Harris says:

    Nice picture, glad you found it!

  5. thatcrowwoman says:

    Almost sunrise here in the forest.
    I’m not sure what time the sun hits my windows (ask me tomorrow, ’cause now I wonder), but I do know
    and I am sure
    that school dismisses at noon today for 2 glorious weeks.

  6. WhichTruth says:

    And then you remember Alaska is about 1/3 the size of the lower 48.

  7. slipstream says:

    Us? Obsessive about light?

    The sun won’t touch my house again until 2:42 p.m. Monday, January 7, 2013, when it will partially show above the ridgeline for about two minutes, disappearing again at 2:44, the rising again at 3:09, only to set at 3:22, for a grand total of 15 minutes of sunshine that day. If it’s clear.

    This does not mean I am obsessive about light. It does not. It does not. It does not.

    • Alaska Pi says:

      Now. Just a minute here.
      Touch your house or shine in the windows?
      Shining in the windows is what counts, you know.
      The sun won’t hit my windows again until the 3rd week in February and then it will only be for about 7 minutes . By the 2nd week in March I will have almost a half hour.
      IF foolish neighbors would get over their huffiness and trim their dadblamed 50 foot spruce tree into a lovely topiary toothbrush as I have suggested numerous times I figure I would get light in the windows by February 1.
      Some people!
      Here’s to +0.00.10 minutes more light by Sunday!

      • slipstream says:

        Oooohh, Pi, you are darker than I am.

        I knew there was something I liked about you.

        And yes, I meant shine in the windows of my house. Drop by on January 7 and we will celebrate.

        • mike from iowa says:

          Just goes to prove some people ain’t living right. Out here in ioway our days start getting longer and we just had our first measurable snow.Today would also be my 36th wedding anniversary if only the little ex and I could tolerate one another.I didn’t realize when I was young and dumb that the shortest day of the year was meant to be a metaphor for the rest of my life. Who knew? BTW I am sending checks to Slip and Pi as soon as I can figure a way to equitably divide gazillions of dollars in two. Please feel free to cash these immediately upon receipt,I don’t think your bank will quibble over a few extra zeroes. Merry Holidays to youse guys,provided it is light enough to see them.

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  1. […] this, the shortest day of the year, folks in Anchorage saw the sun rise at 11am and you missed the sunset if they took a late lunch. […]

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