Let There Be Light

Second-by-second, the sun will return

By Michael Turton

The winter solstice arrives at 5:23 p.m. today (Dec. 21), marking the shortest day and longest night of the year. It also signals the beginning of winter.

But on Dec. 22, there will be reason to rejoice; the amount of daylight will begin increasing with each passing day. That means, on Saturday, we will have one second more daylight than the day before.

What are your plans for that second?

Sure, it isn’t long: There are more than 31.5 million of them each year. But consider, for a second, how its significance can increase dramatically:

  • On Dec. 31, 2017, about 2 million people packed Times Square to experience the first second of 2018. Another 2 million are expected next week to welcome 2019.
  • In 2009, Usain Bolt ran the 100 meters in 9.58 seconds. Had Darvis Patton taken one second off his last-place finish of 10.34 seconds, he would have beaten Bolt handily.
  • If your private jet could fly at the speed of light, you could circle the planet 7.5 times in a second.
  • In 1992, after 500 miles of intense racing, Al Unser Jr. won the Indy 500 by 0.043 seconds.
  • Warren Buffet makes $402 every second.
  • The world’s fastest computer can make 33,860,000,000,000,000 calculations in a second.

As winter progresses, it doesn’t take long for the seconds to add up. Sunset arrives at 4:31 p.m. on the solstice but by Jan. 21, it doesn’t happen until about 5 p.m. By Feb. 21, it’s approaching 6 p.m. The breakthrough will be March 20, the spring equinox, when the amount of daylight catches up to the amount of darkness, at about 12 hours each.

The summer solstice on June 21 will be the longest day of 2019, with sun up at 5:25 a.m. and sundown at 8:30 p.m. — 15 hours, or six hours longer than Dec. 21.

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