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Longest day

PostPosted: 21 Jun 2013, 08:12
by Nathan
I wondered if anybody else was a fan of the summer (or winter) solstice?

The other night I had trouble sleeping, and as it was a clear night with just a little bit of high cloud around I had the chance to observe how short the nights actually are at this time of year. I like the coziness of the winter solstice too, when it is already getting dark at half past three in ths afternoon and is still dark after eight the next morning, and on the rare occasion the sun does come out it is too low in the sky to clear the roofs at street level, but I much prefer the summer solstice. I used to celebrate it in my own way by getting up really early and going for a long bike ride at 4am to revel in the oddness of having the streets entirely to myself yet it being broad daylight, but I haven't done that for a while now.

I now live in York, more or less on the 54th parallel and not far from where I spent the bulk of my childhood, where on the longest day of the year the sun rises at 4.32am and sets at 9.42pm. If the skies are clear though, it's light for quite a bit longer than that - you could read a book outside 45 minutes before sunrise and after sunset with no problem. It's noticeably lighter than London, where I lived for a few years until recently.

If there is no cloud, or better still a little high cloud in the northern sky to reflect the sunlight from just below the horizon then it doesn't get 100% dark at all - even at 1am there is a blue tinge on the northern horizon, and the outlines of clouds and buildings in the distance are illuminated before the long morning twilight starts up again. It's nothing compared to what proper arctic or sub-arctic latitudes get, but it doesn't happen at all in London after about 11.15pm if I remember rightly, and we are only about 200 miles further north. I've always had a geeky fascination with summer twilight and how the differences get bigger quite noticeably within short distances once you go above 50 degrees latitude, and I could happily live at a much higher latitude where the differences between summer and winter daylight are even more acute.

I'm not much of a fan of hot weather, but I always look forward to late spring and early summer more so than any other time of year: the countryside a lush green, wildflowers everywhere and the parks/gardens full of colour, the long days and the warmth before I've had the chance to get sick of it.

In addition to long days we also sometimes get noctilucent clouds here, which again I never saw in London, which are a summer equivalent of the northern lights and something not yet fully understood, and which look like this and can make midnight look even brighter than 11pm:


Re: Longest day

PostPosted: 21 Jun 2013, 08:18
by Gavin
What a fascinating post - I hadn't really thought about this topic to that degree. Congratulations on moving to York! It must be quite different.

Re: Longest day

PostPosted: 21 Jun 2013, 20:03
by Nathan
Right on cue, there's an article wishing we made more of a celebration out of the passage of the seasons, as did our ancestors and as do many of our Northern European near-neighbours:

Re: Longest day

PostPosted: 21 Jun 2013, 20:24
by Gavin
Well, I had made a note in my calendar that summer begins today. Personally I hope it'll be a hot one!

Re: Longest day

PostPosted: 23 Jun 2013, 11:33
by Grant
Being on the other side of the planet, it was our shortest day on Friday. The aspect I had not quite taken into account was the distance the sun (apparently) makes across the horizon from the longest to the shortest day. I live near the sea so mostly have an uninterrupted view of the sunrise and when I think back to late December and the sun's position at sunrise then and now of this weekend, that 23 and a half degrees makes a lot of difference. On other matters celestial, tonight we enjoyed a brilliant "super" full moon with the moon being about as close as it gets to the Earth.