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Earliest Sunset of 2017 Happens Today

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SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - For Suncoast residents who like more daylight in their evenings, today marks a special point in the solar calendar. 

Even though the shortest day/longest night won’t occur until the winter solstice on Dec. 21, the sun will set earlier tonight than at any other time of the year. It will no longer get dark, earlier each evening.

The sunrise/sunset table for Sarasota shows sundown occurring this afternoon at 5:35:32 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

By Sunday evening, the sun will set 9 seconds later. And by Christmas Day, the evenings will be noticeably lighter with the sun setting about 8 minutes later.

This astronomical conundrum is caused by the shifting difference in local sun time, as measured by a sundial, and that measured by modern clocks synced to standard time. 

That difference shifts back and forth by several minutes on each side of the winter and summer solstices, meaning the sunset and sunrise times shift as well with respect to standard clock time. The factor behind this phenomenon is known as the “equation of time.”  

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Equation of Time

The analemma printed on many globes illustrates how the difference between sun time and clock time cycles during an entire year. Credit: Globe Museum, Vienna.

The dates of earliest sunset and latest sunrise depend on the latitude of a particular location. People living in the far southern U.S., like us, experience the earliest sunset in late November while those living up north experience it during early December. 

So enjoy the lengthening evenings in the weeks ahead. But for those early birds who rise before dawn, the mornings won't start getting lighter until after the sun rises at the latest time of the year on January 10 and 11. That will happen precisely at 7:21:27 a.m. both days.