Happy New Year! I suspect that most of us were ready to see 2020 in the rearview mirror. Here is hoping 2021 is your best year ever. Things are getting brighter! Most of us might not have noticed it much yet, but the days are getting longer!
The winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, occurred back on December 21. Sunrise and sunset in Bismarck on that day was 8:26am and 4:58pm, respectively. That was only 8 hours and 22 minutes between sunrise and sunset. But by the end of this month (January), we will have gained over an hour of sunlight compared to what we had on the solstice. Sunrise will come about 20 minutes earlier (8:06 in Bismarck) while sunset will be 48 minutes later (5:46).
And of course, it gets even better. By the end of February, we will have just over 11 hours between sunrise and sunset. Then when the spring equinox comes around on March 20, as you might expect, it is close to 50:50. Sunrise and sunset in Bismarck will be 7:43 am and 7:57 pm respectively. That is 12 hours and 14 minutes between sunrise and sunset. The increase in daylength then culminates with the summer solstice on June 20 this year when we will enjoy a whopping 15 hours and 53 minutes between sunrise and sunset. But it is all downhill from there to the winter solstice in December.
Our nights are still long, however. And you may already know that the Quadrantids Meteor Shower peaks the night of January 2nd and early morning hours of the 3rd. It is a short-lasting shower, running only from January 1-5. A waning gibbous moon will interfere with the fainter meteors, but there may be up to 40 meteors per hour during the peak period. The other days could be good too. So if the sky is clear over the next few days you might want to check it out.
Things are going to get brighter. Sunrise is going to be a little earlier each day, and sunset will be a bit later. And that will continue well into June! Oh, and go out and see if you can catch a falling star the next couple nights.