Wednesday 22 April 2015

Polar Day Ahead!

The nights are getting brighter, and we are rapidly approaching the Polar Day, when the Sun does not set anymore for many weeks. The All-Sky Camera of SGO requires that the Sun has set at least 10° below the horizon before it will start up to take images of the night sky and the aurora if there's any. On Friday, 24th April, the Sun will not set below –10° elevation, and thus the camera operations have now been stopped for the summer. The next time the Sun goes low enough in the night is on 19th August. Thus from our auroral camera's point of view, the Polar Day is about to start, and it will last for 117 days!

Please note that for operational reasons, SGO's All-Sky Camera will not be immediately available from 19th August onwards, but of course we try to make the real-time images available as soon as feasible.

The image above (click to get a larger version), shows the light conditions in 2015 for the location of our All-Sky Camera. On the horizontal axis there are key dates for this year. On the vertical axis are the number of hours of darkness. Yellow refers to daytime, i.e. the Sun is above the horizon, and in the middle of the year, there are some 44 days when the Sun does not set at all here. The darkest blue refers to the time when the Sun is 18° or more below the horizon. This is considered total darkness.

The remaining shades of blue refer to the twilight: the lightest blue represents civil twilight, when the Sun is between 0° and 6° below the horizon, i.e. the time just before sunrise or after sunset. The next darker blue with the green line refers to nautical twilight when the Sun is between 6° and 12° below the horizon. The green line shows the limit for the All-Sky Camera, when the Sun is 10° below the horizon. The remaining shade of blue refers to astronomical twilight when the Sun is between 12° and 18° below the horizon.

The green line goes to zero (no darkness anymore) on 24th April and rises again on 19th August. In the middle of winter, the Sun remains for more than 16 hours low enough for our camera to operate.

Furthermore, we can see that just around winter solstice, the Sun does not rise at all during four days. However, it is not totally dark thanks to the prolonged civil twilight time and usually bright, snow-covered land.

Graphic and solar data: Thomas Ulich.

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