Sunset

On November 14, 2016 we bid farewell to the sun. We will not see it rise again until January 28, 2017. The days had been getting shorter and shorter, the sun barely rising above the horizon, then just skimming along to set again moments later. Now it has set at last.

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TAWO against a colorful noon sky

We still get a few hours of civil twilight for 4:40 hours around midday where the horizon is well defined and it’s too bright to see stars. For about 90min on either side of that we are in nautical twilight with the brightest stars visible as well as the horizon, but lights are necessary for outdoor work. The next 90min are in astronomical twilight, and from 5pm to 5:40am it is truly darkest night.

solar-graph

This graph shows the hours of daylight, twilight, and night for our latitude. The jogs in the lines are from the daylight savings time shift. Today is broken down on the bottom.

Many people have asked if I find the darkness, or lack of sun, depressing or difficult. I do not. I am only here for several months each year and the darkness makes this place feel even more special. It opens up the world of stars and auroras that only a handful of people get to see. It is beautiful and sublime, a perfect balance to the inescapable harsh sun of the summer. Aside from the outside lights on our buildings there is no light pollution. There are no trees or mountains to obstruct the horizon. It is like being on a calm sea – the dome of the sky immense and infinite. Stars shine and twinkle brightly, points light in the blackness. Satellites glide among the stars, occasionally flaring in the sunlight so high above. Meteors streak brightly now and then. Solar storms release energized particles which interact with our magnetosphere. This engendering the aurora borealis which glows and dances silently across the sky in fluid colorful ribbons fading in an out, glowing green or yellow or purple. (See my previous post for more info on auroras: https://antarcticarctic.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/aurora-australis/) It is truly magical.

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Auroras reach towards the disappearing sun

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Looking up at Cassiopeia and auroras. The green LiDAR Shines up from the MSF and a satellite streaks across the sky.

We are now definitely in winter and temperatures have fallen lower and lower, reaching -53F yesterday! Here is a temperature (Celsius) graph from late September.

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Last week the full supermoon (closest since 68 years) coincided perfectly with sunset. We had some beautiful views of the enormous moon as it rose and set against be bruised earth shadow.

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Supermoon rising beyond the berms

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1 Comment

Filed under Summit Station

One response to “Sunset

  1. Wow….. again, here I go feeling envious. (But I can’t complain – I’m headed back to the NBP in a few weeks for a month-long PUQ-MCM transit along the Amundsen and Ross Sea.)

    Thanks for the gorgeous pics! And I completely get what you mean about the darkness being special – I love it.

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