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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Candlemas - Halfway thru Winter!

Skywatch - Sunday 2/4 NY Times

'This past Friday was Candlemas, once regarded as the first of the first "cross-quarter" days of the year, or the middle of the winter season, halfway between the December solstice and the March equinox. But winter's midpoint actually occurred last night at 7:14 PM Eastern time.'

'Although the altitude of the Sun has been climbing and the length of daylight has been increasing since the winter solstice on Dec. 21, any changes up to this point have been relatively subtle. On the first day of winter, for example, sunset occurred at 4:32 PM and the length of daylight (from sunrise to sunset) reached a minimum of 9 hours and 15 minutes. Yesterday, at winter's midpoint, the Sun set at 5:16 PM with only 57 additional minutes of daylight having accumulated since Dec. 21.'

'But it is in the second half of winter that the effects of the northward shift of the Sun's direct rays become much more noticeable. In fact, by March 20 the length of daylight will have increased by almost two full hours since Feb. 3. And because daylight saving time will now begin on the second Sunday in March, by March 20 the Sun will be setting after 7 in the evening.'

---Compiled by Joe Rao, a lecturer at the Hayden Planetarium


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