Can the Sun Set Twice in One Day?

Due to its unique position, the remote Alaskan village of Kotzebue occasionally experiences two sunsets in a single calendar day.
Due to its unique position, the remote Alaskan village of Kotzebue occasionally experiences two sunsets in a single calendar day.

Everyone loves a beautiful sunset, but very, very few of us will ever get to see two on the same day. That special treat is reserved for the residents of Kotzebue, Alaska, a remote village that happens to be positioned at just the right latitude, longitude, and time zone to make such an event feasible at a certain time of year.

The phenomenon became possible after Alaska went from four time zones to two time zones in 1983. So, on August 8, 1986, the sun set just after midnight, and then again at 11:56 pm. Two sunsets on the same calendar day isn't the only peculiarity of living in Kotzebue. For several weeks in the summer, the sun will set early in the morning – and then rise later in the morning. As Ray Downs, a National Weather Service employee who once worked in the Kotzebue office, said: "I've been in charge of that weather station four times and I still have a hard time explaining it."

For those thinking of traveling to catch the double sunset, Kotzebue lies 547 miles (880 km) from Anchorage and 26 miles (42 km) north of the Arctic Circle.

Other unusual places in Alaska:

  • Juneau is the state capital, but you can't get there by car; travel requires a plane or boat.

  • In 1938, the town of Kennicott quickly went from boasting the world's richest copper mine to being a ghost town, as residents left en masse.

  • Just outside of the town of Talkeetna is a house nicknamed the "Dr. Seuss House," which rises whimsically to a height of somewhere between 14 and 17 stories.

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    • Due to its unique position, the remote Alaskan village of Kotzebue occasionally experiences two sunsets in a single calendar day.
      Due to its unique position, the remote Alaskan village of Kotzebue occasionally experiences two sunsets in a single calendar day.