Alaska: In northernmost Alaska, the town of Utqiagvik, formerly known as Barrow, is preparing to plunge into a remarkable period of polar night, lasting an impressive 66 days from November to January 2024. As the last sunset graces the horizon on Saturday, November 18, this town of approximately 4,000 residents will bid farewell to daylight until January 23, 2024.
What is a polar night?
Polar night, a phenomenon where locations remain in darkness for more than 24 hours, is a unique experience attributed to Utqiagvik’s location above the Arctic Circle. While other Alaskan towns also share in this natural occurrence, Utqiaġvik takes the lead due to its extreme northern position.
Residents living in nearby towns such as Kaktovik, Point Hope, and Anaktuvuk Pass will also find themselves in a temporary nocturnal existence for one to two months. The sun officially sets at 1:48 p.m. local time on the 18th, initiating Utqiagvik’s hiatus from sunlight until the anticipated reappearance on January 23, 2024, around 1:09 p.m.
During this period, Utqiaġvik will not succumb to complete darkness as there will be civil twilight, which will last for several hours when the Sun is just below the horizon. According to the National Weather Service, sun occurring within 6 degrees below the horizon, civil twilight softens the impact of the prolonged night.
As residents navigate the winter darkness, vitamin D supplements and light therapy lamps are popular to mitigate its potential effects.
Looking ahead, the anticipation of sunrise on January 23 brings hope as the town gradually emerges from the polar night, foreshadowing the return of the enchanting “midnight sun” during the summer months when Utqiaġvik basks in 24 hours of continuous sunlight.