There’s no doubt that summer is here! The hot weather over the past few weeks can tell us that. But, the start of the summer season can also be seen in the position of the sunset on the western horizon. This astronomical observation is also associated with changes in the length of day and night. So, both location and duration are part of this celebration.
Back in February, the sunset was located well to the south of the state line gravel road that runs exactly east-west in front of the Farm. So the photo on the left is looking west and the sunset is off to the left. And, the winter nights are long and cold. In contrast on the first day of spring (the equinox) in March, the sunset is exactly along the east-west state line and the day and night are about the same length.
In May the sunset has shifted to the right/north of the gravel road. The photo on the left doesn’t show the exact time of sunset, but you can tell that it’s headed down toward a position that’ll be just to the right of the “Chicken Tree” which is the lone tree silhouetted on the far horizon. (The grandkids called it the Chicken Tree because it looks like a cartoon character with boots on.) Then in June closer to the first day of summer (the solstice), the sunset has shifted to a point way north of the Chicken Tree and the gravel road. That most recent photo is the one on the right. Now, at this farthest north location, the days are long and hot and the nights are short.
It also seems like the sun moves faster toward the far north solstice position than when it’s approaching the east-west equinox over the gravel road. But, maybe that’s not so easily documented. There is a data source that tells us that the days get longer faster toward the solstice position but are more slow to get shorter near the equinox position. So, both space and time are tied up in the solstice observations.
Margaret deserves a special thanks for these photos. They’re not just the ones that she sometimes posts as “The view from the back porch”. For example for the most recent solstice shot, she made a mad dash down the driveway to catch the sun right at the setting location.