2019-06-21 (Midsommarafton)

Today, I learned that:

Today is the brightest day of the year on the Northern hemisphere, it is the day of the Summer solstice. You may remember that I already wrote about it briefly three years ago, on 2016-03-20, but here are some more interesting facts:

1. Summer solstice

The Summer solstice is the day of the year when one of the Earth’s hemispheres is located as close to the sun as possible. On the Northern hemisphere it happens around June 21 and on the Southern hemisphere around December 21. As a consequence, this is also the longest day of the year, considering the time from sun rise to sun set. But it also means that on the opposite hemisphere, it is the shortest day of the year. Read reference # 1 below for more information about the solstice.

So, which is the difference in duration of daylight in a particular place, if we compare those two dates? Well, the closer you live to the North Pole or the South Pole, the bigger the difference in time. You have probably heard about the expression “Midnight sun”, which is a phenomenon observed by those who live within the Arctic circle. As an example, in Kiruna, the northernmost city in Sweden, this year its habitants are lucky to have days with 24 h daylight from May 28 all through to July 16, a total of 50 days! But at the time around the December equinox, it is of course the opposite. From December 11, 2019 to January 1, 2020, during a total of 22 whole days, the Sun does not appear above the horizon not even a single minute!

And the closer one lives to the Equator, the less difference in time between the longest and the shortest day of the year. As an example, in Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazônia, located 2 degrees South of the Equator, the difference is only 22 minutes, and in Macapá, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amapá, located exactly on the Equator, every day in 2019 is 12 h 7 min long. In my town Paranavaí, located slightly North of the tropic of the Capricorn, thus within the tropics, today is only 10 h 43 min long, whereas on December 21 it will be 13 h 34 min, a difference of 2 h 51 min. Reference #2 below has a link to a site that gives such information for any place on Earth, well worth studying.

2. UTC #1

And speaking about time, maybe you have noticed that the old abbreviation GMT (which stands for Greenwich Mean Time) is more often these days exchanged to UTC, how come?

I believe it is a matter of jealousy. Although the time settings for the globe are maintained within a zero meridian passing through the Greenwich observatory in UK, why should the British people have the privilege also to the name? So instead, UTC was introduced. Now, what does UTC stands for, exactly?

The fact is that it is a fabricated “abbreviation” involving English and French. Some centuries ago, the French had their own zero meridian for time, passing through Paris, but they had to succumb to Greenwich in that sense. So, as a compromise, they managed to enforce the denomination UTC. In English it would be similar to “Coordinated Universal Time” (CUT), and in French “Temps Universel Coordonné” (TUC), so UTC is not a bad compromise. Reference #3 has the whole story about it.

3. UTC #2

While I was doing research about UTC #1, I remembered that UTC is also the (real) abbreviation of a technical university in France, where I studied in the 1970s. I already wrote something about it on 2017-11-11, but here comes more. This UTC means Université de Technologie de Compiègne. It is a technical university belonging to the French state, created in 1972, and since 2012 it makes part of the group of Sorbonne Universities. It has a reputation of being more integrated into the society, with frequent trainee periods in the French industry, as well as many interchange programs with other international universities, than the traditional theoretical French technical universities, e.g. École Polytechnique.

I studied there between September, 1978 and June, 1979, exactly 40 years ago. During that year happened an interesting fact, a group of students from China came to study at our university. It was a sensation at that time, because China was extremely closed to external activities. This photo shows the Chinese students, taken in February, 1979. They have since kept the contact and met year after year and update themselves. See also reference # 4 below. At the bottom of that page you can also find the complete magazine edition of April 2019, both in French and English.

The group of Chinese pioneers who studied engineering at Université de Technologie de Compiègne, France. This picture was taken in February 1979, when they has just arrived at the university.

4. ISS flies over Paranavaí

The sensation today here in my home town was the passing of the international space station (ISS). I had heard about it before, that it would be possible to see it with the naked eye, but never had the chance to actually see it. See also reference #5 with the announcement.

Update on 2019-07-12

Today we had a chance of viewing the ISS even better and for longer. And it did not hurt at all that the moon was eager to also play a vital part of the scene, being half way between the crescent and full moon phases. See the photo below. Reference #6, which tells the ISS passing date and time for any location on the earth, said the following about this event:

A photo of the international space station en route passing over Paranavaí, PR, Brazil. The ISS is the small dot you can see up in the left corner, appearing together with an almost full moon. This photo was taken on 2019-07-12 at 19.25 local time.

That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: Solstice

2: Kiruna, Sweden — Sunrise, Sunset, and Daylength, June 2019

3: Coordinated Universal Time

4: Des étudiants chinois à l’UTC depuis 40 ans

5: Estação Espacial poderá ser vista novamente no céu de Paranavaí

6: 10-day predictions for satellites of special interest

*: What did you learn in school today ?

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