Tag Archive: Sunset


I had to share this video. For years I worked in an office with a south window just a block down the street from the museum from which this was taken, and I have seen the low arc of the sun over the Alaska Range. This video was on the Alaska Dispatch as a time-lapse of the Mayan Apocalypse (which just happened to be the Winter Solstice) with comments from the photographers.

The museum (and my old office) are on a ridge north of the Tanana Valley, with the main part of Fairbanks to the southeast, and part of the residential portion of College directly to the south. The bright patch below the Alaska Range on the horizon is the sun reflecting off the top of the ice fog; the discrete streamers are exhaust from chimneys.

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Fairbanks Weather 9/26/11

It’s fall—and to prove it we’ll have only 11 hours and 52 minutes of daylight today. The sun rose at 7:45 this morning and it will set at 7:37 this evening – no more attending things that start at 7 pm, unless I can be sure of a ride back. At its highest the sun will be not quite 24° above the horizon, and days are now longer than those everywhere to the south of us..

Officially, we started fall last Friday at 1:05 in the morning, but it wasn’t until Sunday that we got down below 12 hours of daylight. Why? Because sunrise and sunset are defined according to when the top of the sun, not the middle, is just visible on the horizon. To be exact, you actually have to take into account also the fact that the atmosphere curves the path of the light rays slightly, so that the actual position of the sun is always a little lower in the sky than what our eyes tell us. This is only important when the sun is very near the horizon, of course, but at high latitudes, where the sun rises and sets at a very shallow angle, it can make several minutes difference in the time of sunrise and sunset. This also changes the apparent direction of sunset and sunrise – on the day of the equinox the sun actually rose 2° N of due east, and set 1° N of due west.

The weather has, sad to say, caught up with the season. We had a frost Saturday night, and only the hardiest plants are still going strong. I pulled the rest of the beets yesterday, and picked the few beans that were ready, as well as removing the hoses and laying them out to drain. I’m glad I brought in the potted plants last week. Next step? The potato bag.

The native deciduous trees have lost most of their leaves, with the exception of a few golden holdouts, and even exotics like my Amur maple are close to dropping their foliage. The world has changed form green to shades of tan. Even the evergreens are darkening. Good-bye, summer. See you next year.

Sunrise was at 7:04 this morning and sunset at 8:29 this evening, for a daylength of 13 hours 25 minutes. We’re losing 6 minutes 39 seconds a day. The sun at its highest is a little more than 29° above the horizon, and now dips more than 18° below the horizon — astronomical night. At the same time the full moon, which of course is opposite the sun in the sky, is getting higher in the sky — almost 25° tonight. The last quarter will be higher yet.

Amur maple in my yard. It has some anthocayanins, but as an exotic is slow to turn color.

I put the plastic covers over the beans and squash last night, and brought in the geraniums. The late-planted green beans are almost ready to pick, and as this is a new variety for me, I at least want to find out what they taste like! Turned out it wasn’t necessary, though, as the temperature at sunrise was 36F.

The trees are at that stage where some are green with just a few yellow leaves, some are about half turned, some are all gold, and some are already turning tan and losing their leaves. Yellow leaves sprinkle my lawn. There are even a few clumps of red-orange on the hillsides.

Clumps? Yes. Aspens, like birch, normally turn yellow in the fall, not orange. But a few mutant aspen do show a lot more red than usual in their foliage. Single trees would be hard to spot, but aspens spread by growing new shoots from their roots. This is decidedly problematic when you have a lawn bordered by aspens; trees are constantly poking themselves through the grass. But it also means that a stand of aspen is often actually a clone, each tree identical to its neighbors genetically. If one of the mutant trees with more red than usual in its fall coloring starts forming a spreading clone, the result is a red patch on the hillside.

The photo, looking ENE from a parking lot on the north side of Fairbanks, shows two such clones on Birch Hill. The more obvious is on the right side of the picture, just below the horizon. The other, smaller clone, is above and to the left of the Home Depot sign. More than likely, the uniform light green areas are other clones, ones that turn color late.