Saturday, January 12, 2008

Return of the Sun!

Thursday, January 10 heralded the emergence of the sun to some extent. At noon a predawn light filtered through the southern sky giving a glorious red sky and possibly just a hint of the umbral edge of the sun visible just above the horizon. This bathed the landscape in a red glow for about 25 minutes. A thin layer of clouds added to the colors and highlighted the sky’s colours. Ice crystals in the air also gave rise to a sun pillar. The warm collars of the predawn light contrasted with the cool blue and white tones of the snow. In any event it was good harbringer of the return to sunlight that is to be soon upon the land

Friday, January 11 brought an actual amount of sunlight from noon to about 1230. While only a sliver of the sun was visible it produced enough light to cast shadows and glint off of the metal roofs of some of the buildings. We shouldn’t have seen the sun today but refractive effects of the cold air mass and a clear southern horizon allowed this peak at Sol a day early from the official return of light to Cambridge Bay. Tomorrow, the astronomical alamanac calculateds 37 minutes of actual daylight. So Saturday we will have a sunrise and sunset for the first time in about 5 weeks. Astronomical twilight is defined when the sun is within 15 degrees of the horizon so we’ll have a nice chunk of the day lit – and it only gets longer from here.

Saturday, January 12 -the day the sun returns. I’ll probably go for a ski out towards the NW passage and catch the dawn out on the ocean. Today’s glimpse is like a bonus that has shortened the winter.

It’s strange – we are now in the home stretch – while winter is still official until solstice on March 21 – it really feels like winter is now over with the return of the sun. I don’t really care about the temp or the snow – its over and it wasn’t anywhere near as odious as people made it out to be. I was able to get out everyday and ski if I wanted as there is a 3 to 4 hour window of light that allows one to navigate sans headlamp.

People narrowing in on trivialities of life and personal problems sometimes tend to forget the bigger picture. Most people will view the coming of the sun as a momentary distraction and not think about the fact that the light is traveling 147 million kilometers before impacting on the ground and in their eyes. It takes light about eight minutes or so to travel that distance and signifies the nature of celestial mechanics that govern the seasons on our planet – id est where we are on the path of the ellipse that the earth scribes out on its orbit of the sun. A classic crescent moon rose today about 2 PM and with it you can tell the position of the sun below the horizon – just draw a mental line from the cups of the crescent and trace a perpendicular bisector away from the concavity of the lunar form – it will point directly to the sun.


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Way Way Up said...

Love the pictures!

Anonymous said...

Hi, your photos about the first sunrise after a long time in darness are wonderful. Your sunrise is looking like our sunset in springtime over the Mediterranean sea. You are excited over 30 minutes of more light and we in the south are excited over the almond blossom. You are expecting springtime and we have this already. But anyhow your experience in this part of the world is for me exciting because I know part of Norway where you find the same experience only not that cold.