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FAQs

Why aren’t the earliest sunsets on the shortest day?

In early December, the Southern Hemisphere is approaching its summer solstice.  Sunset on that part of Earth will continue coming later until early July.  Photo of sunset with crepuscular rays by Phil Rettke Photography in Ipswich QLD Australia.  Visit Phil Rettke on Facebook.

In early December, the Southern Hemisphere is approaching its summer solstice. Sunset on that part of Earth will continue coming later until early July. Photo of sunset with crepuscular rays by Phil Rettke Photography in Ipswich QLD Australia.

The winter solstice is the shortest day. It offers the shortest period of daylight. But the earliest sunsets aren’t on the solstice itself. Instead, they come a couple of weeks before the winter solstice. If you’re at a temperate latitude of the Northern Hemisphere, your earliest sunsets are in early to mid-December.

Is it better to be a night owl or an early bird?

This Friday’s FAQ …Early birds versus night owls. Who wins the battle over bedtime? Let’s see what the guys at AsapSCIENCE have to say about this one. New video!

What’s the birthstone for December?

Turquoise

Turquoise

Happy birthday to all our December-baby friends! December has two birthstones, turquoise and zircon.

Is it true that Jupiter protects Earth?

Brown spots mark the places where fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 tore through Jupiter's atmosphere in July 1994.  Image and caption via Wikimedia Commons.

Brown spots mark the places where fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 tore through Jupiter’s atmosphere in July 1994.

Here’s a question we get regularly:

Is it true that Jupiter could be considered our friendliest planet because – without Jupiter – comets would be more likely to hit us?

The answer is yes … and no.

Does eating turkey really make you sleepy?

Photo credit: Lotus Carroll/Flickr

Photo credit: Lotus Carroll/Flickr

Ah, Thanksgiving Day. You pile your plates with turkey, dressing, two kinds of potatoes, cranberries – all the traditional foods – and dig in. Second helpings? Of course! An hour later, after plenty of food and conversation, you push back and notice you’ve become very, very sleepy. You think, “I’m sleepy because turkey is high in tryptophan.”

What makes a halo around the sun or moon?

Halo around the sun, seen from Sweden on April 24, 2014 and captured by Fotograf Goran Strand.

Halo around the sun, seen from Sweden on April 24, 2014 and captured by Fotograf Goran Strand.

A ring or circle of light around the sun or moon is called a halo by scientists. We get many messages throughout each year from people who’ve just spotted a ring around the sun or moon.

People want to know: what causes a halo around the sun or moon?

What is lake-effect snow?

Podcast and interview with Tom Niziol, a longtime meteorologist-in-charge of the National Weather Service in Buffalo, New York, about lake-effect snow.

What is the Zodiac?

The changing location of the vernal equinox.

Image credit: Kevin Heagen (via Wikipedia)

Today’s FAQ!

The Zodiac, the 12 signs listed in a horoscope, is closely tied to how the Earth moves through the heavens.

Which bird migrates the farthest?

Arctic Tern in flight via Wikimedia Commons

Arctic Tern in flight via Wikimedia Commons

Over its lifetime of about 25 years, an Arctic Tern can fly a million kilometers – nearly three times the distance from the Earth to the moon.

What’s the birthstone for November?

Photo credit:  Orbital Joe/Flickr

Photo credit: Orbital Joe/Flickr

Happy birthday to all you November babies! Your birthstone is the topaz.

The word “topaz” comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “fire.” And in ancient lore, the topaz could be used to control heat. It was said to have the power to cool boiling water, as well as excessive anger.