Just recently, a friend shared an article from Manila Bulletin’s website titled “36 hours of darkness in US likely on October 17”. I read it and had an impression that this could be another nonsense rumor like the Mars Hoax , based on my own knowledge of these things. However, the writer claimed that the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said that this event “may partially hold true“.
Quoting the original article, it says
Online and text rumors claiming that the sun will rise continuously for 36 hours on October 17, 2010 in some parts of the world and leave the United States in darkness for 36 hours may partially hold true, an official of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said on Wednesday.
The report spreading through e-mails and text messages noted that this “coming October 17, 2010, the sun will rise continuously for 36 hours (1.5 days). During this time, the American countries will be dark for 1.5 days. It will convert three days into two big days. It will happen once in 2,400 yrs.”
I did my own research on this topic to know more and I learned that the same article with the same author, Ellalyn de Vera, was also featured in Yahoo News – Philippines and in another local newspaper, Tempo. Other than these, only a few websites had discussions which debunked this topic. Following are some of them:
“The further north you go, the longer the days. This may be true near the arctic circle, but not for the US, other than Alaska. And it certainly does not happen just over two to three days. Arctic days and nights are gradual things, lengthening and shortening over the course of a year. For it to happen just for the day, the Earth would need to slow down its rate of spin. Not possible for a body as massive as the Earth, without destroying itself as the energy from angular momentum changes so abruptly.” (This is one of the best logical explanations I found.)
Most of the websites above clearly said that this “hoax” originated in India and circulated in emails and text messages since 2008.
To further confirm the information contained in the article, I decided to visit the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory in U.P. Diliman to look for Engr. Dario dela Cruz, officer-in-charge of the PAGASA space sciences and astronomy section. Unfortunately, he was not there during that time so I just talked to Sir Mario, the head of the Observatory about the article.
I showed Sir Mario a copy which I printed from the Internet and he told me that it was the first time he had seen the news report.
We spent a few minutes talking. There were several important points raised during our discussion which I will list down here:
(1) Engr. dela Cruz’s statement below is true.
“After we experience the equinox during September, countries located in the Southern Hemisphere begin to observe longer days, as against those in Northern Hemisphere that observe longer nights, which include the northernmost part of the United States.
Starting September 24, there is a gradual decrease in the number of hours of nighttime as we go below the latitude. Countries located above 66.5 degrees are those that only experience a whole day of darkness.”
(2) However, if the “36 Hours of Darkness” will happen, the possibility of its occurrence will just be limited to the northernmost or southernmost part of the globe like the north of the Arctic Circle or south of the Antarctic Circle. (see diagram below for visualization)
(3) Currently, the most number of hours in which the sun would not set (also called the Midnight Sun) or rise is only for 24 hours and it happens mostly north of the Arctic Circle and south of the Antarctic Circle, never in any part of America which is located at lower latitudes.
(4) This event, the Midnight sun, is a natural phenomenon and it happens every year, not just every 2,400 yrs as was claimed in the article.
(5) There is still no scientific evidence based on data and computations that the 36 hours of darkness is likely to occur. The basis for the expected date October 17, 2010 wherein it was said to happen was still unknown to them.
(6) If this was to happen, it was only logical that the event should fall near solstices, and not near equinoxes.(September Equinox this year)
So based on Sir Mario’s explanations, the claim in the article about having “36 hours of Darkness” is more likely just a misinterpretation or simply a HOAX.
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Equinox – occurs twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun. The term equinox can also be used in a broader sense, meaning the date when such a passage happens. The name “equinox” is derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), because around the equinox, the night and day are approximately equally long. This year, equinox falls on March 20 and September 23.
Solstice – either of two times of the year when the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator. The summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere occurs about June 21, when the sun is in the zenith at the tropic of Cancer; the winter solstice occurs about December 21, when the sun is over the tropic of Capricorn. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year and the winter solstice is the shortest.
image credit: Google images
Stargazing during the month will give fine displays of celestial bodies, stars and constellations after sunset and before sunrise. This is truly something to look forward to on July despite the cloud and rains that cover our skies 🙂
Here is a post from GMAnews.TV via Yahoo news Philippines to guide Filipino sky gazers this month.
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Can’t watch eclipse? At least watch the parade of stars
If we can’t watch the eclipse where we are, at least we can watch the nightly parade of stars.
No, it’s not a movie critic talking about the current Hollywood hit, “Eclipse.” It is what state astronomers said late Thursday, referring to a total solar eclipse that will occur on July 11 from 6 to 9 p.m. (Universal Time) but will not be visible in the Philippines, during which it will be July 12 from 2 to 5 a.m.
However, stargazers can still get some consolation gazing at a celestial parade of stars, as well as four planets that will dramatically line up on July 14, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) hastened to add.
“A total eclipse of the Sun will occur on August 12 [sic], however, it will not be visible in the Philippines. The eclipse will begin at exactly 1:09 p.m. (Philippine Standard Time). It will visible in the Cook Island, French Polynesia, and Southern tip of South America,” PAGASA said in its astronomical diary for July.
[Editor’s note: The date “August 12” in the PAGASA website entry is wrong. Other authoritative sites, such as that of the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration and United Kingdom’s Nautical Almanac Office all include a solar eclipse event for July 11 but none on Aug. 12. We assume that the wrong date in the PAGASA website is a mere typist’s error.]
On the other hand, state astronomers said stargazing during the month will give fine displays of celestial bodies, stars and constellations after sunset and before sunrise.
It said the famous Summer Triangle of the stars Vega, Deneb and Altair of the constellations Lyra, Aquila and Cygnus, respectively, is being well placed above the eastern horizon.
The bowls of the Big and Small Dipper in Ursa Major and Minor stand high above the northern horizon with the body of the constellation Draco, the Dragon, winding between them.
Also, PAGASA said the grouping of a horseshoe shape stars of the constellation Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown, lies on the north-south meridian with the head of Draco below it.
“The constellation of Scorpio is positioned above the east-south eastern horizon, while the constellations of Centaurus, the Centaur and Acrux, the Southern Cross are just above the south direction after sunset,” it added.
July 14 lineup
On July 14, PAGASA said an evening line-up of naked-eye planets including the crescent Moon will parade before skywatchers as they will see Mercury, Venus, Mars and Saturn in the western horizon this month, 30 minutes after sunset.
The gap between these planets shrinks throughout the month of July, PAGASA said.
At midnight, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune will be found at about 18, 21 and 44 degrees above the eastern horizon, respectively.
“Modest size binocular or telescope will be needed to view these planets,” PAGASA said.—JV, GMANews.TV
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Happy observing! 🙂