Raise your hand if you’re over sunset at 4:30. Earlier than 4:30, even. Although February is the worst, I am not feeling this lack of daylight time at all. Pitch black at 5:00 is not okay. But I have good news. There are only 10 more days until daylight time starts increasing! The winter solstice is December 21, which is when we experience the least amount of daylight all year (about nine hours here in New York). Some people refer to the winter solstice as the shortest day of the year. Being a ginormous science nerd prevents me from using this description. All days contain 24 hours, so the term “shortest day” doesn’t really make sense.
But that’s not the point.
The point is that on December 22, we will start experiencing more daylight time by about two minutes per day. The day after the summer solstice in June, daylight time will start decreasing again.
But we’re not going to think about that.
We’re going to focus on 10 days from now. We’re going to welcome the light.
The Countdown to More Daylight reminds me of when I was a science teacher. My kids learned why daylight time fluctuates throughout the year in my Earth Science class. We have seasons for three reasons: the revolution of the Earth around the Sun, the tilt of the Earth on its axis (by 23.5 degrees), and the fact that the Earth’s axis always points in the same direction (parallelism). These three factors result in the Sun rising and setting in the SE and SW around winter. Sunrise and sunset positions gradually shift to the NE and NW around summer. Since the Sun apparently moves through the southern sky (“apparently” because the Sun is not actually moving aside from rotating in place; the Earth’s rotation on its axis throughout the day causes the Sun to appear to be moving), when the Sun rises in the SE and sets in the SW it apparently travels shorter distances. This results in shorter daylight time.
But back to what this reminded me of.
When I was a teacher, one of the most challenging concepts for my kids to grasp was the dome diagram. A dome diagram shows the Sun’s apparent path for any day of the year at any latitude (seasons, daylight time, and noon altitude of the Sun are all dependent on latitude). One of my old students (aka vintage noodles), Tatyana, recently came across her Sun’s Path quiz and posted it on FB:
Throwback moment circa 2003, son! Sorry you can’t see the sticker Taty earned. Everyone who scored over 85 on a quiz or test got a sticker. And yes, I taught high school juniors and seniors. You are never too old to enjoy a sticker! In Taty’s diagram, you can see that the Sun’s path near the bottom left of the dome (for December 21) is much shorter than the other paths. Each day the Sun’s path changes a little bit, fluctuating between the shortest path (December 21) and the longest path (June 21).
But that’s not all Taty posted.
She posted such a sweet comment to my wall with this photo that I had to include it here. This blog has been a sort of journal for the past six years. I started it right after I resigned from teaching in 2007 to write full-time. What a sweet full-circle moment to add Taty’s words here:
People come and go, but some leave a mark and influence your life forever. I was looking through some of my old documents and belongings and I noticed two huge binders that had “Earth Science” written all over them with a Sharpie marker. I already knew what this hidden treasure was. I always said that I would NEVER ever dispose of my High School Earth Science notes, handouts, lab experiments, tests etc. I’ve never had a teacher inspire and motivate me more than Susane Colasanti. She was so dedicated and genuine. Her passion for teaching, and making students smile was indeed rare. She filled the school with a sense of hope. The kind of hope that thick skinned teens from the South Bronx yearned for. Ms. Colasanti knew that we came from different backgrounds and struggles, but she always motivated her students to do better and dream bigger. She wasn’t only teaching she was molding futures. I would like to thank her for all that she has done and continues to do. May the Universe bless her with unlimited amounts of peace, love, and success.
That’s pretty much the sparkliest warm fuzzy ever. It made me really happy to see that one of my students remembers me and feels that she benefitted from her time in my classroom. I had much love for my students. I worried about those kids like they were my own. My job as an author is the best job in the world, a dream job that I love and appreciate every single day. At the same time, I do miss my people (aka teens). True, I am reaching more of my people through my books. But it makes me smile to remember the 10 years I had with them. It makes me smile to read a warm fuzzy inspired by a quiz from 10 years ago. And of course I’m smiling that we’ll start basking in more sunlight 10 days from now.
Let’s all welcome the light and keep spreading the love!