For the inhabitants of tropical regions, the celestial encounter between the rays of the sun and the night may result in a paradox, a mental confusion that simply has no place. However, in the more northern regions, nature can be completely out of the ordinary, transforming paradoxes into reality. The midnight sun is proof of this, it rises over the skies, and for some time, it never sets in the west, such as in the city where it never gets dark.
Although it sounds like a phrase out of romantic poetry, the midnight sun is a completely real astronomical phenomenon. It is observable at the Earth’s poles where the Sun’s trajectory behaves peculiarly and, in the regions closest to both, the north and south poles, the sunlight hits the rest of the planet differently.
This extraordinary phenomenon is the opposite of the polar night, therefore, it is months during which the Sun never hides in the west and seems to float above the horizon all the time, 24 hours a day.
The Earth does not rotate perfectly perpendicular to the ecliptic, which is the imaginary line that divides the Solar System horizontally but has an angle of inclination of 23.5º. During the summer solstice, therefore, the northern hemisphere is more inclined towards the Sun, receiving more light. This, in turn, means that at latitudes much closer to the Arctic Circle, the Sun’s rays always hit the Sun squarely regardless of whether it is day or night.
The result is the beautiful midnight sun that lasts for months at a time. The more northerly the location, the longer the phenomenon. It should be said that the southern hemisphere also occurs nights without darkness; however, there is no populated area in this region from where the phenomenon can be observed. All the cities from where it is possible to admire the midnight Sun is located in the Arctic, in the north of the planet.
The city where the Sun never sets
Alaska, Greenland, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and Iceland are the countries from where it is possible to admire the fusion between day and night. But among them all, Norway stands out for experiencing the longest day of all.
Svalbard is a Nordic archipelago located in the heart of the Arctic Ocean and is the northernmost part of Norway. It is here that darkness ceases to appear in the sky for longer than in any other Arctic region.
In Svalbard last night for months at a time, from April 18 to August 25, the only thing that reigns in the sky is sunlight. During this period the Sun never fully touches the horizon, so much so that it hides, but shines unceasingly. For four months the locals forget the darkness and get used to living under the light; the longest midnight sun on the planet.
This is why the Nordic city has become so well known among tourists seeking to experience the extraordinary meeting of day and night.
Story originally published in Spanish in Ecoosfera