Sunsets Get Later, Days Still Get Shorter

On December 11, 2012, the sun sets in Baltimore at 4:43 pm, making it one of the earliest sunsets of the year. After this date, sunsets start getting later, even as the days keep getting shorter through December 21, 2012.

So why doesn’t the earliest sunset occur on the shortest day of the year? It just so happens that our clocks are not perfectly in-sync with the sun. This means that on most days, 12 pm on our clocks doesn’t actually happen right at solar noon. But how is this even possible?

Earth's Orbit(earthguage.net)

Earth’s Orbit (earthguage.net)

We must remember that the earth’s orbit isn’t a perfect circle, it’s actually elliptical. And the earth also rotates on a titled axis. These imperfections, added together, make it so that a day isn’t always equal to 24 hours, so after a while, our 24-hour clocks get out of sync with the sun. This week, it’s especially noticeable, when solar noon switches from happening before 12 pm to happening after it. It just so happens that December 11, 2012 is the magic day, when 12 pm actually happens right at solar noon.

After this date, as our clocks get out of sync with the sun once again, it only appears that the sunsets are getting later, even though our days are actually still getting shorter.

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