If you finish work for the day and notice that it already looks like the middle of the night outside, don’t be alarmed. Toronto is set to experience its earliest sunset of 2021 tonight, but it’ll actually be more like late afternoon when starts getting dark.
The sun will set at 4:40 p.m. starting on December 7th until December 13th, according to Time and Date.
The Farmer’s Almanac explains that tonight’s early sunset is actually happening two weeks before the winter solstice, also known as the shortest day of the year. The same thing happens in the summer — the latest sunset of the year actually happens about a week after the solstice.
You’d think that the shortest day of the year would have the earliest sunset, but because of the sun’s path through the sky, the earliest and latest sunset don’t actually coincide perfectly with solstices.
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“Because of the Earth’s elliptical orbit around the Sun, the planet moves faster in its orbit during January (when we’re closest to the Sun) than in July, when we’re farthest away,” says the Farmer’s Almanac.
“Because of this motion, the Sun’s path through the sky, when charted on a day-by-day basis, appears to take a lopsided figure-8 pattern astronomers call an ‘analemma.'” This phenomenon means that the sun doesn’t always line up perfectly with the meridian.
“On December 21, the solstice, the Sun’s position on the analemma is at the very top of the figure-8, whereas on December 7, it’s slightly to the right of the topmost position, causing it to arrive at the eastern horizon a little sooner than on December 21.”
Basically, we’ll be seeing a lot more night sky over the coming weeks, but especially over the next few days.
In a couple of months on February 15th, we can look forward to the first “Torontohenge” sunset of 2022, a rare and stunning sunset that only happens a few times a year in the city.