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Small City In Alaska Prepares For Near Darkness For 65 Days

By Sharelle Burt

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Are you afraid of the dark?

 

Hope the residents of Utqiaġvik, Alaska have their flashlights ready because after sunset on Sunday, the town will descend into near darkness for 65 days. The most northern town in America, formerly known as Barrow, will watch the sun drop below the horizon for the last time in 2018 on Sunday afternoon. This marks the beginning of “polar night.” The town won’t get to experience much of the sun since sunrise is at 12:40 p.m. AKST and sunset occurs little over an hour later at 1:44 p.m. AKST.

 

Sounding unpleasant, it’s actually a myth that the small town near the Arctic Circle will sit in complete darkness. There is a time when the sun sits at six degrees below the horizon, allowing a little bit of light to hit outside objects. It’s called “civil twilight,” lasting about six hours near the beginning and end of polar night but cuts to about 3 hours right before Christmas. The sun’s direct rays hover over areas between the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn during the Northern Hemisphere’s fall and winter season. Tilting away from the sun in the fall and winter, areas north of the Arctic Circle get more than two months of darkness as the sun plays a game of hide-and-seek near the horizon.

 

Isn’t science amazing?

 

Things turn around for Utqiaġvik starting in mid-May through early August. Residents will be living in complete sunshine as when the sun doesn’t set for over two months, beginning on May 12 at approximately 2:34 a.m. AKDT and ending at sunset on Aug. 2 at 2:08 a.m. AKDT. Towns like Fairbanks, Alaska, still see a sunrise and sunset all year round, but the sunset is a little earlier than expected. Thanks to the winter solstice, the sun will set as early as 2:41 pm on December 21 only about four hours after sunrise, around 10:58 a.m. Fairbanks also experiences civil twilight for 24 hours from mid-May to late-July.

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Sharelle Burt

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