The days will soon start seeming a bit longer! Here's why the earliest sunset isn't on Winter Solstice.
Long Winter Nights
This time of year it always surprises me how early the sunsets. It has been this way my entire life, but sunsets in the 4:00 hour still always surprise me. During this time of year, it can seem depressing because the nights seem so long, and the lack of sunlight can take a toll on your mental health. Many people struggle this time of year because it's cold, dark, and often dreary. But hang in there, the stretches of daylight will soon start to seem longer!
The Earliest Sunset of the Year is December 8th
On Friday, December 8th the sun will set at the earliest time this year, which is interesting because the shortest day of the year doesn't happen until December 21st, so what's up with that? Well, in short, it has to do with the way the Earth orbits and the sun's path through the sky, it makes kind of a figure-8 loop. The Farmer's Almanac explains why the earliest sunset and shortest day don't coincide.
The Sun’s odd looping path also explains why the earliest sunset and the latest sunrise fail to exactly coincide with the solstices. Instead, the earliest sunset occurs about two weeks before the winter solstice, while the latest sunrise occurs about two weeks after the solstice.
You can see a diagram of this orbit pattern on the Farmer's Almanac's website. According to Time and Date, on December 8th the sun will rise over Evansville at 6:53 AM and set at 4:30 PM. After this the sunset will start to happen a little later each day, meaning daylight hours will start to seem longer to us.
The Shortest Day of the Year is December 21st
Now even though the days will start to slowly seem longer with the sunset gradually getting later each evening, the day of the year with the shortest amount of daylight hours will be on the Winter Solstice, December 21st. On December 21st, 2023 in Evansville, the sun will rise at 7:02 AM and set at 4:34 PM according to Time and Date.
So hang in there, longer seeming days are ahead and before we know it we'll be changing the clocks and heading into spring!