The sun has set for the last time in 2020 in the northernmost city of the United States, plunging residents into darkness until January 23.
Utqiagvik, in Alaska, enjoyed just 34 minutes of sun around lunchtime on Wednesday before the ‘polar night’ set in.
It happens because of the way the earth tilts on its axis, leaving parts of the Arctic and Antarctic facing away from the sun for months at a time.
By the time the 4,000 people who live in the remote community see light again, Joe Biden will be in the White House, Christmas will be well and truly over and coronavirus vaccination programmes may have started in earnest.
The area will continue to see some sort of dawn but the sun will remain below the horizon. On the winter solstice on December 21 it will be 4.7 degrees below the horizon at noon before beginning its gradual month-long re-emergence.
The plus-side for residents is that the inverse happens over the summer and Utqiagvik will see endless daylight from May 11 until August 18 – giving it the nickname the ‘land of the midnight sun.’
In the run up to the darkness, days have been getting dramatically shorter. On November 1, there were five hours and 42 minutes of daylight.
In just two weeks this had shrunk to the 34 minutes seen on Wednesday with the sun not actually managing to rise fully above the horizon with only the rim poking into view.
The long dark winter isn’t helped much by the harsh climate with temperatures barely reaching above zero most days.
Utquigvik has been battling coronavirus like almost every other place in the world. The city recently introduced several new restrictions and a bizarre punishment for those found breaking the rules.
People who arrive in Utqiagvik are now required to quarantine for 14 days, and masks are required in all public places.
Anyone who doesn’t do this must make a public service announcement on the dangers of coronavirus.
Mayor Fannie Suvlu told Alaska Public Media that people will be allowed to make a voice recording, video clip or flyer which can then be distributed around the community. The area saw 12 new cases of coronavirus last week.
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