MACON, Ga. — Days are getting shorter, and it's very noticeable this time of year right after the time change. Sunset today in Macon was at 7:10 a.m., and sunset at 5:31 p.m. This gave central Georgia a little over 10 hours of daylight and just under 14 hours of nighttime.
For folks in Utqiagvik (Barrow), Alaska, the sun has set for the final time in 2019.
This is all because of the Earth's tilt. The Earth rotates on an axis that is tilted at 23.5 degrees. As the Earth orbits the sun, the tilt does not change, but the orientation of the axis with respect to the sun changes. This gives us our change in daytime hours and ultimately our seasons. In summertime, the northern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun, and in the winter time the northern hemisphere is tilted away.
In the higher latitudes, closer to the poles, this tilt creates significant changes in the amount of sunlight received on a day-to-day basis.
The Arctic Circle sits at 66.5 degrees north latitude. North of this line, there is at least one 24 hour period each year that experiences 24 hours of no sunlight and 24 hours of no nighttime. The further north a place is above the Arctic Circle, the longer it can experience either of these two phenomena.
The 4,000 residents of Utqiagvik (Barrow), Alaska experience a lack of sunrise 67 days out of the year. On the other hand, they also experience 67 days of constant sunshine.
The wintertime isn't totally dark. The lack of a sunrise does not mean lack of light. The disk of the sun may not come above the horizon, but does get close enough to provide at least some light for a short time during those 67 days. Still, it must be a unique way to live.
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