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A 30 Minute Sunset in Kotzebue

We arrived in Kotzebue in the late afternoon and the sky was overcast gray. We didn't think too much of it - it was August 23, too late in the season to have a late sunset or midnight sun that we from the Lower 48 find so eerily fascinating. But when we were eating dinner and the sun poked through the clouds over Kotzebue Sound to cast a warm, orange glow into the restaurant, it was disappointing to think we may not get to see a sunset over the sea. Fortunately, the cloud cover retreated from the northwestern horizon to make for one of the most beautiful and the longest sunset I've seen. The gray overcast lit up as if on fire when the sun sank between the cloud cover and horizon. It was majestic, and these pictures only begin to capture the beauty of the experience.

In mid and equatorial latitudes sunsets and sunrises are brief as the sun follows a steeply sloped path across the horizon, but in the extreme northern and southern latitudes the sun's ecliptic is a line almost parallel to the horizon, and the sun never wanders far above the horizon in day or far below it at night; the results of this are long summer days, long winter nights and long sunrises and sunsets.

The beautiful sunset captured in the pictures below began at 10:30pm and ended just before 11:00pm. In the next to last picture you can see the sun's disc crossing the horizon in the lens reflection just below and to the left of the sun. In the lens reflection, you can clearly see no more than a third of the sun's disc remains, but there were 10 minutes of sunset left.

"Hi, folks! Would you believe it's the third week in August, but it's about 40 degrees Fahrenheit right now, and the temperature will dip into the 20s tonight?" That's me standing on the shoreline at sunset - life's a beach!

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