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.