…by Anura Guruge
The shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice, MY favorite day of the year (since it heralds the coming of Summer), is on December 21, 2013.
But, the rate at which sunrise and sunset varies, from day to day, going towards the Solstice and coming out of it isn’t symmetrical.
So, right now we are in THE period of the EARLIEST sunsets. That doesn’t mean that these are the SHORTEST days because sunrise happens ‘earlier’.
So in terms of daylight hours we still have 13 days to go before we see the shortest day.
But, for those that don’t see sunrise (in the winter) these are the shortest days because the sunset is earlier.
I know, this is kind of obtuse. Not immediately obvious. Though I understand it, each year around this time, I still have to stop and think about it to make sure it is clear in my mind.
In the mid-1990s before I went on my own I worked for a couple of years, as the ‘Lead Consultant‘ at Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN) — THE place where some of ‘the Internet‘ was invented, and NO, Al Gore never worked at BBN. Amazing place. I have never seen, not even at Cisco, IBM, Northern Telecom, just a inescapable concentration of raw, vivid intelligence. I used to be in awe. I always felt that I was the ‘Token Dummy‘ they had hired — and I had this exalted title! But, I repaid them in my own little way. In my first year there I got about 20 articles, with the BBN tagline, printed in trade journals. They loved that. Plus I was sure that I was the only uncircumcised person (thank God) on the whole campus — separated by the railway tracks leading to North Station in Boston. So, I also felt that I was the ‘Token Gentile‘ — and I wasn’t even a Gentile! There was a genius there who tracked sunset and sunrise for Boston and sent us e-mails reminding us of the various flavors of ‘shortest days’. I still get these e-mails from him … which is what reminded me to go check the times for New Hampshire. BBN was a great place.