Why Isn't The Earliest Sunset On Dec. 21?

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By By Steve Pool

SEATTLE - Have you noticed that the sunsets stop getting earlier a week or so ahead of the "shortest day of the year" on or around Dec. 21 -- the day you'd think would have the earliest sunset?

The answer is that our way of keeping time assumes constants that aren't exactly constant. Earth's path around the sun isn't a circle, it's an ellipse. We orbit faster around the sun in winter when we're closest, and slowest when were furthest away in summer.

These little changes mean the sun is not at its highest point in the sky when we say it's noon -- it can be off a few minutes.

Check out this article below for even more details -- imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov

Your Photos

YouNews Rainbow Lightning Rainbow Lightning
Driving across I 205 bridge from Portland OR to Vancouver WA.
YouNews Various shades of Mt. Rainier Various shades of Mt. Rainier
No great sunset but lots of different cloud formations on
Thursday. The clouds eventually enveloped the entire mountain view.