Midnight Sun in the Arctic

Toolik Field Station, North Slope, AK

June 16, 2019


Video of the Day:

The summer sun never sets on Toolik Field Station in the Alaskan Arctic. I took the below time-lapse last "night" from 8:31 PM to 7:53 AM, facing south toward Toolik Lake.




One of the oddest things I’ve experienced up here is the lack of darkness. At the beginning of my stint, I had trouble remembering to go to bed. To approximate “night” in my WeatherPort, I have to drop a blackout curtain over my WeatherPort window and wear a mask to cover my eyes. Here’s a diagram explaining the summer midnight sun in the Arctic circle.

Midnight Sun
The sun is always up during the summer at Toolik Field Station, due to the 23.5° tilt of the earth's axis toward the Sun. Image Source: Science ABC.

The summer solstice is coming up on June 21. While the sun is already up 24/7 here at Toolik, it will be at its highest and brightest throughout the day on June 21. Subsequently, it sinks lower and lower in the sky from day to day and month to month, until the field station receives no light at all during the day (winter months). As the below diagram illustrates, this is due to the tilt of the 23.5° tilt of Earth’s axis in relation to the sun.

Summer Solstice vs. Winter Solstice
The figure illustrates summer vs. winter solstice. As the Earth revolves arount the Sun, its 23.5° tilt affects the amount of sunlight received, especially in polar regions. Image Source: National Weather Service.

It will really be strange to experience darkness outside again when I return home to Texas!


Comment below!

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Comments

David Walker

Let me know of any suggestions you have for better capturing the midnight sun up here. It's a very weird experience!

Anonymous

I've never seen time-lapse photography of the midnight sun before. Well done! So interesting to see the sun dip down toward sunset, but not go all the way below the horizon. It's hard to imagine being there in winter during months of 24 hr darkness. The stars would be brilliant. Also, I guess there would be the Northern lights.

David Walker

Agreed! 24 hour darkness for an extended period would be quite rough. There are multiple folks up here that spend the entire winter at Toolik. Amazing! I'll have to ask them what the sky looks like.