Midnight sun

Midnight sun
The midnight sun at Nordkapp, Norway.
The Alta Fjord in Alta, Norway bathed in the Midnight Sun.
Midnight sun in Kiruna, Sweden.

The midnight sun is a natural phenomenon occurring in summer months at latitudes north and nearby to the south of the Arctic Circle, and south and nearby to the north of the Antarctic Circle where the sun remains visible at the local midnight. Given fair weather, the sun is visible for a continuous 24 hours, mostly north of the Arctic Circle and south of the Antarctic Circle. The number of days per year with potential midnight sun increases the farther poleward one goes from the equator. Although approximately defined by the polar circles, in practice midnight sun can be seen as much as 90 km beyond the polar circle, because the sun is a disk and not a point, and the exact latitudes of the farthest reaches of midnight sun depend on topography and vary slightly year-to-year.

There are no permanent human settlements south of the Antarctic Circle, so the countries and territories whose populations experience it are limited to the ones crossed by the Arctic Circle, e.g. Canada (Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut), Denmark (Greenland), Finland, Lapland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the United States (Alaska), and extremities of Iceland. A quarter of Finland's territory lies north of the Arctic Circle and at the country's northernmost point the sun does not set for 73 days during summer. In Svalbard, Norway, the northernmost inhabited region of Europe, there is no sunset from approximately 19 April to 23 August. The extreme sites are the poles where the sun can be continuously visible for a half year.

The opposite phenomenon, polar night, occurs in winter when the sun stays below the horizon throughout the day.

Since the Earth's axis is tilted with respect to the ecliptic by approximately 23 degrees 27 minutes, the sun does not set at high latitudes in (local) summer. The duration of the midnight sun increases from one day during the summer solstice at the polar circle to approximately six months at the poles. At extreme latitudes, it is usually referred to as polar day. The length of the time the sun is above the horizon varies from couple of days at the Arctic Circle and Antarctic Circle to 186 days at the poles.

At the poles themselves, the sun only rises once and sets once each year. During the six months when the sun is above the horizon at the poles, the sun spends the days constantly moving around the horizon, reaching its highest circuit of the sky at the summer solstice.

Due to refraction, the midnight sun may be experienced at latitudes slightly below the polar circle, though not exceeding one degree (depending on local conditions). For example, it is possible to experience the midnight sun in Iceland, even though most of it (Grímsey being a notable exception) is slightly south of the Arctic Circle. Even the northern extremities of Scotland (and those places on similar latitudes) experience a permanent "dusk" or glare in the northern skies at these times.


Time zones and daylight saving time

For purposes of this article, the term "midnight sun" refers to the phenomena of 24 consecutive hours of sunlight north of the Arctic Circle or south of the Antarctic Circle. There are, however, some instances which are sometimes referred to as "midnight sun", even though they are in reality due to meandering time zones and the observance of daylight saving time. For instance, in Fairbanks, Alaska, which is located south of the Arctic Circle, the sun sets at 12:47 a.m. on the Summer Solstice. This is because Fairbanks is one hour ahead of its idealized time zone (due to meandering for the purpose of keeping most of the state on one time zone) and because the state of Alaska observes daylight saving time. This means that solar culmination occurs at roughly 2 p.m. instead of at 12 noon, as in most places. Conversely, astronomical midnight occurs at 2 a.m. In Bethel, which is further south than Anchorage, the sun sets on the Summer Solstice at 12:24 a.m. for the same reasons. These examples are not true midnight sun phenomena, however, since the sun is below the horizon on every day of the year at the local astronomical midnight.

White Nights

Locations above 60 degrees latitude that are south of the Arctic Circle or north of the Antarctic Circle experience midnight twilight instead. The sun is at the horizon to 6 degrees below the horizon, so that daytime activities, such as reading, are still possible without artificial light, if it is not cloudy.

White Nights have become a common symbol of Saint Petersburg, Russia, where they occur from about 11 June to 2 July, and the last 10 days of June are celebrated with cultural events.

When to see the midnight sun

Map showing the dates of midnight sun at various latitudes (left) and the total number of nights.

According to Visit Norway the midnight sun is visible at the Arctic Circle from June 12 until July 1. The further north one goes the longer this period extends.

At North Cape, Norway, known as the northernmost point of Continental Europe this period extends approximately from May 14 to July 29. On the Svalbard archipelago further north this period extends from April 20 to August 22.[1]

Effect on people

Many find it difficult to fall asleep during the night when the sun is shining. In general, visitors and newcomers are most affected. Some natives are also affected, but in general to a lesser degree. The effect of the midnight sun, that is, not experiencing night for long durations of time, is said to cause hypomania, which is characterized by persistent and pervasive elevated or irritable mood.

ADHD symptoms could be caused by this, changing attention spans for people that have to rush through the little daylight at night and the irritability and hyperactivity of continuous sunlight.

The midnight sun also poses special challenges to religious people such as Jewish people who have religious rites based around the 24 hour day/night cycle. In the Jewish community this has given rise to a body of Jewish law in the polar regions, which attempts to deal with the special challenges of adhering to the Mitzvah in such conditions. Another related religion that suffers from this is Islam, where fasting during daylight hours in ramadan would imply total abstinence.

In fiction

  • In the film Insomnia and its American remake, the protagonist suffers from insomnia partially brought on by the midnight sun while investigating a murder north of the Arctic Circle (Norway in the original, and Alaska in the remake).
  • In The Midnight Sun, an episode of The Twilight Zone, the Earth is on a collision course with the sun, causing a midnight sun effect.
  • The episode of Northern Exposure entitled Midnight Sun explores the effects of the phenomenon on the small Alaskan town's residents.
  • In the Stephen Sondheim musical 'A Little Night Music', the two Night Waltzes deal specifically with the phenomenon of Midnight Sun.
  • In 'Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception, mission 6A is titled "Midnight Sun", where the time is 0000hrs. The mission is to disable Gleipnir.
  • An unreleased companion novel to the book Twilight by author Stephenie Meyer, Midnight Sun promises to be a retelling of the events written in Twilight, but told from the perspective of Edward Cullen (as opposed to that of Twilight protagonist Bella Swan).

See also

  • Eagle Summit, which experiences midnight sun despite being south of the Arctic Circle because of altitude
  • Land of the Midnight Sun
  • Polar night - The opposite phenomenon experienced in winter: a day without sunrise.


  1. ^ Trygve B. Haugan, ed. Det Nordlige Norge Fra Trondheim Til Midnattssolens Land (Trondheim: Reisetrafikkforeningen for Trondheim og Trøndelag. 1940)

Additional Reading

1. Lutgens F.K., Tarbuck E.J. (2007) The Atmosphere, Tenth Edition, page 39, PEARSON, Prentice Hall, NJ.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Midnight Sun — Auteur Stephenie Meyer Genre Fantastique • Romantique Version originale Titre original Midnight Sun Éditeur original Little Brown Langue originale Anglais …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Midnight sun — Mid night sun The sun shining at midnight in the arctic or antarctic summer. [Webster 1913 Suppl.] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • midnight sun — n the midnight sun the sun that you can see in the middle of the night in summer in the far north or south of the world …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • midnight sun — ► NOUN ▪ the sun when seen at midnight during the summer within either the Arctic or Antarctic Circle …   English terms dictionary

  • midnight sun — n. the sun visible at midnight in the arctic or antarctic regions during their summers …   English World dictionary

  • Midnight Sun — Para otros usos de este término, véase Sol de medianoche. Midnight Sun Autor Stephenie Meyer Género Fantasía Tema(s) …   Wikipedia Español

  • midnight sun — noun the sun visible at midnight (inside the Arctic or Antarctic Circles) • Hypernyms: ↑atmospheric phenomenon * * * the ˌmidnight ˈsun [midnight sun] noun …   Useful english dictionary

  • midnight sun — noun the midnight sun the sun seen in the middle of the night in summer in the far north or south of the world …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • midnight sun — the sun visible at midnight in mid summer in arctic and antarctic regions. [1855 60] * * *  the Sun, as seen in the Arctic or Antarctic, where the tilt of the Earth s axis, relative to the plane of its orbit, produces at least one 24 hour period… …   Universalium

  • midnight sun — mid′night sun′ n. the sun visible at midnight in summer in arctic and antarctic regions • Etymology: 1855–60 …   From formal English to slang

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