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Northern Alaska says goodbye to the 2020 sun as region enters long polar night

Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 4:18 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -This week marks the start of a long journey into darkness for northern communities here in Alaska.

In Utqiagvik, Alaska, the sun has set for the last time in 2020. The next time it rises will be in 2021, and more than two months will have passed. This is a phenomenon called the “Polar Night” that occurs at high latitudes such as the Arctic Circle every winter. Because of the Earth’s tilt on its axis, regions within the Arctic Circle can remain facing away from the sun for months at a time during the period between the fall and spring equinoxes.

Han’s Nielson, Professor emeritus of geophysics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks explained, “The Earth’s rotational axis is tilted relative to the direction of the sun. So as the Earth orbits the sun, in the winter the northern hemisphere will be away from the sun. There will be an area up towards the North Pole Where the sun won’t reach, and that is what is happening now at Utqiagvik. We reach a point in the orbit where the sun simply does not reach Utqiagvik, and so you’ll see the sun setting and it won’t rise again for a couple months.”

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