Date: 1999 - 2000
If I was standing in the northern part of Alaska in the
summer, on the day of solstice, where would the sun rise and set in the sky? My
friend tells me the sun rises and sets in the north. Is this correct?
At any position north of the Arctic Circle (23.5 degrees from the north
pole) there would be at least one full 24 hour period of daylight. The
farther north you go the more days of full daylight. There would be no
sunrise or sunset but the sun would make a lap of the horizon never getting
very high in the sky. As far as the position of the rise and set, the
farther north your position, the farther to the north the sun would appear
to rise and set.
Interestingly, there are a number of definitions of sunrise and sunset that
would affect the real answer to this question. Twilight can go either way.
Actually, the northernmost part of Alaska is north of the Arctic Circle, so
the sun actually is up the entire day of the solstice. Strictly speaking,
then, it neither rises nor sets.
Right on the arctic circle, yes, the sun rises and sets due north on the day
of the Summer solstice. In other locations, the Sun rises in the northeast
and sets in the northwest on that day. The sun rises due east and sets due
west only on the equinoxes.
Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D.
PG Research Foundation, Darien, Illinois
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Update: June 2012