My goal to learn something new every day
During one of my classes today, we got on to the topic of daylight saving time and the like. One of my students wanted to know what time the sun set in the UK, and was surprised to hear that during the summer months, the sun might not set until around 9.30 in the evening.
This then lead on to a discussion of those areas in the Arctic Circle where the sun does not set for certain periods of the year. The student in question wanted to know what we call this phenomenon, and said that in Korean there was a word for it, but as far as he knew, from asking other teachers and searching his dictionary, there was no English term for it. I thought about it for a while, trying to think about whether I’d ever heard the word or not, and nothing was coming to mind. But like a good little teacher, I told the student I’d go away and find out if we did have a word for it and get back to him.
I searched Google for “what is it called when the sun never goes down”. Luckily enough, Wikipedia had the answer:
The midnight sun is a natural phenomenon that occurs in the summer months in places north of the Arctic Circle or south of the Antarctic Circle, when the sun remains visible at the local midnight.
The midnight sun is only observable from countries located within the Arctic Circle, which include: Parts of Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Alaska.
Some areas in Norway, such as Svalbard—a group of islands—experience the continuous sunlight for months at a time. This page on the Visit Norway site explains more about it. When the sun does not set for a period of 24 hours or more, it is known as a polar day, as this page on timeanddate.com explains.
The Wikipedia page also describes white nights which occur in areas just south of the Article Circle. Here, although the sun does set below the horizon, it is only 6 degrees or less below, which means the regions experience twilight where there is still enough light that artificial light is not needed.
The opposite of a polar day is a polar night. This is when the sun does not rise for 24 hours or more. At the two poles, the sun only rises and sets once during a year. Once the sun sets at the poles, it does not rise again for several months.
So it turns out that we do have a term in English for this phenomenon. Where would we be without Google?!