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21 December, 2007; 12:00 Leave a comment Go to comments

On Friday, December 21st, 2007, I experienced an astronomical phenomenon I had never experienced before: I witnessed a sunrise and a sunset twice in the same day, without crossing the international date line. How could this be, you may ask? Read on…

Well, let me explain with pictures. You see, I woke up in London (well, Reading, actually, but close enough), and sometime that morning, the sun rose on the London area (look for the orange dot):

Next, I made my way from Reading to Heathrow airport, where my overseas flight took off toward San Francisco at about 1:30 p.m. (look for the orange arrow):

The flight began as normal, with the flight attendants serving drinks, and me starting to watch a movie to help keep me awake as much as possible during the trip, and then dinner was brought around. But before the dinner trays had even been collected, I was surprised to see out the windows that the sun was setting! I was surprised because I knew we were traveling in the same direction around the Earth as the Sun, and because we were scheduled to arrive in San Francisco on the same day during daylight hours. But there it was:

What I hadn’t expected was that because this was wintertime, near the winter solstice, and because these flights usually fly over the Arctic Circle, then of course we would be flying into parts of the Earth that during this time of the year receive no direct sunlight, any time of day. The middle of our flight went over just such places. Eventually, of course, sometime before our second meal was served, the sun rose again:

And by the time we landed in San Francisco, it wasn’t long before sunset would arrive again, this time for good:

There you have it. Two daylights in a day.

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