Question: Where on Earth does noon only come once a year, on the December solstice?
Answer: At the South Pole, on the December solstice.
Yes, at the Earth’s South Pole, high noon comes only once a year, on the December summer solstice. Yet, it’s midnight at the other end of the world – at the Earth’s North Pole – where midnight only comes once a year, on the December winter solstice.
Some three months after the December solstice, around the March equinox, the sun will finally set at the South Pole and rise at the North Pole. Some six months after the December solstice, at the June solstice, it’ll be noon at the North Pole and midnight at the South Pole. Nine months after the December solstice, around the September equinox, it’ll be sunrise at the South Pole and sunset at the North Pole.
If we define “day” by successive noons (successive sunsets, successive midnights or successive sunrises) then a day lasts a year at the North and South Poles. Sunrise comes every year around the spring equinox, noon at the summer solstice, sunset around the autumnal equinox and midnight at the winter solstice.
Bottom line: At the North and South Poles, sunrise comes at the spring equinox, noon at the summer solstice, sunset on the autumn equinox and midnight at the winter solstice.
Bruce McClure has served as lead writer for EarthSky's popular Tonight pages since 2004. He's a sundial aficionado, whose love for the heavens has taken him to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and sailing in the North Atlantic, where he earned his celestial navigation certificate through the School of Ocean Sailing and Navigation. He also writes and hosts public astronomy programs and planetarium programs in and around his home in upstate New York.