Why Alaska is the Land of the Midnight Sun

The sun sits just above the horizon on the 2019 summer solstice at the annual Midnight Sun...
The sun sits just above the horizon on the 2019 summer solstice at the annual Midnight Sun Baseball Game at Growden Memorial Park. (KTVF)
Published: Jun. 16, 2020 at 5:35 PM AKDT
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The Summer Solstice, the day of the year with the most sunlight, is one of the more important times of the year to Interior Alaskans. Locals and tourists take advantage of the long-lasting sun before the pendulum swings back to the dark winter nights.

Many large festivities surround the longest day of the year, such as the Midnight Sun Run and the Midnight Sun Baseball Game. But as we celebrate the annual day in June, some may not know what makes Alaska the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Located near the top half of the northern hemisphere, Alaska is subject to long summer days the area faces towards the sun. As the Earth continues to rotate, the northern hemisphere, specifically Alaska, remains facing the sun, creating nearly 24-hours of daylight.

"The summer solstice occurs when the Earth is in its part of the orbit where the northern hemisphere is most tilted towards the sun," said University of Alaska Fairbanks Professor of Physics Mark Conde. "That means as the Earth spins, the northern half of the hemisphere is always illuminated by the sun...the southern part is the shadow. So, it is summer in the north and winter in the south."

In contrast, Alaska experiences long, dark days in winter, as the northern hemisphere faces away from the sun during that part of the Earth's orbit around the star.

"The further away form the equator you are, the more difference it makes at solstice," added Conde. "Being a long way from the equator means that the difference between seasons is greater."

This year's summer solstice is on Saturday, June 20 with an expected daylight of nearly 22 hours. The sun is expected to rise just after 3 a.m. before setting well after midnight the following day.

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