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Latest Sunsets

July 3, 2015

Here in the northern hemisphere, the longest day of the year came a couple of weeks ago. Yet for the southernmost regions of the United States, the Sun is just now setting at its latest for the year. The difference is so tiny, though, that no one is likely to notice it.

The longest day of the year is the summer solstice, which came on June 21st, when the Sun stood farthest north for the year.

You might expect to see the earliest sunrise and latest sunset on the solstice as well, but that’s not the case. The earliest sunrises came a few days before the solstice, with the latest sunsets coming after the solstice. For northern parts of the country, the latest sunset was around June 27th. But for the southern tips of Texas and Florida, it’s coming about now.

There are several reasons for the later sunsets. One is related to Earth’s tilted axis, and another is Earth’s orbit around the Sun.

Right now, we’re farthest from the Sun for the year, so our planet moves a little slower and covers a slightly smaller distance than average each day. Because of that, Earth doesn’t have to make a full turn to catch up to the Sun in the sky. But our clocks move at a fixed rate, so they get ahead of the Sun. As a result of all that, the time of sunset keeps moving a little later for a few days.

No matter what part of the country you’re in, though, the days are starting to get shorter — a trend that will continue until the winter solstice in December.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015

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