December 2, 2022
The moment of global darkness – for the largest percentage of Earth’s human population – falls at 19:56 UTC on Tuesday, December 6, 2022. Surprised? Consider that China and India are Earth’s 2 most heavily populated nations. And both will be in darkness at that time. Meanwhile, the Americas, New Zealand, and most of Australia will be bathed in sunlight. Now consider that North and South America combined only make up about 13% of the global population. Image via Timeanddate.com.
A moment of global darkness
For just a moment on December 6, nearly 9 in 10 people worldwide will simultaneously experience nighttime.
A few months ago, our number crunchers fact-checked (and partially confirmed) an internet claim that 99% of the world’s population gets sunlight at 11:15 UTC on July 8. This left us wondering: What about the opposite situation? At what precise instant do most people experience nighttime?
Like last time, we fed our computers with timeanddate’s sun data for 2022 and population data from the Center for International Earth Science Information Network at Columbia University. We then calculated population data for the day, the night, and the three twilight phases for every minute of every day of the year.
Here’s what we found out.
December 6: Most people in nighttime
According to our calculations, the moment of maximum darkness happens at 19:56 UTC on Tuesday, December 6, 2022. At that instant, the sky will be completely dark for about 85.92% of the world’s population. At that moment, night reigns across the three most populous continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe (with very minor exceptions).
How can it be nighttime for almost everyone?
Just like at any other moment, the sun will illuminate one half of the globe at 19:56 UTC on December 6. The other half will be dark, and people living there will experience nighttime.
The reason why so many people will be in darkness is that the world’s most populated areas will be on the night side of Earth at that moment. That includes nearly all of Asia, which is home to about 60% of all humans.
Meanwhile, the Americas, New Zealand, and most of Australia will be bathed in sunlight. However, while being huge landmasses, relatively few people live there. North and South America combined only make up about 13% of our worldwide population.
Two twilit runners-up
While it’s nighttime for most people on December 6, there is also a case to be made for both December 21 and December 27 as alternative moments of maximum darkness.
You see, our computers spit out December 6 as the result only when we ask them to adhere to the strictest definition of nighttime. This definition says the sun must be at least 18 degrees below the horizon.
If the angle is less than 18 degrees, it’s twilight. That’s the time in the morning and in the evening when indirect sunlight brightens the sky to some degree.
December 27: Feels like night for most people
The thing is, the darkest of the three twilight phases, astronomical twilight, is hardly discernible from the night. The sun is between 12 and 18 degrees below the horizon during that twilight phase. And the sky is so dark that it feels like nighttime.
When we allowed our algorithms to include astronomical twilight, they calculated 19:39 UTC on Tuesday, December 27, 2022, as the moment of peak darkness.
According to our numbers, 86.11% of the world’s population experiences either nighttime (85.23%) or astronomical twilight (0.88%) at that instant.
That’s roughly 15 million more people compared to the number we calculated for December 6. Still, it hardly moves the needle on a global scale: The difference accounts for a mere 0.19% of the world’s population.
December 21: Most people without direct sunlight
The second alternative instant of peak darkness takes into account all twilight phases, including nautical and civil twilight. During those two phases, the sky is noticeably brighter. However, there’s still no direct sunlight.
Applying this loose definition of darkness, we arrived at 21:44 UTC on Wednesday, December 21, 2022, as the moment when most of us are not in the daytime.
We calculated that this affects 88.14% of the world’s population. Nearly 9 out of 10 people on Earth!When taking into account not just nighttime but all phases of twilight, 21:44 UTC on December 21, 2022, puts 88.14% of the world’s population in darkness. Note also the moon is near new phase and won’t add much light to the night. Image via timeanddate.com.
What’s so special about those dates?
We weren’t particularly surprised that all the dates fall in the northern winter. Most people reside north of the equator, and December is the month when the least amount of sunlight reaches the Northern Hemisphere.
But why does the number of people in darkness (or quasi-darkness) peak on those dates? Why does nighttime affect more people on December 6 than on, say, December 5?
It all depends on how well the shape of the region affected by nighttime and twilight overlaps with the world’s most populated regions. That shape changes very slightly from one day to another as the sun moves southward before the December solstice and northward again after the solstice.
On the dates we found, it simply matches the contours of the world’s population centers slightly better than on the day before or after.
But again, the difference is very, very small. Case in point: According to our calculations, the number of people experiencing night at 19:56 UTC on December 6 is 6,665,450,571; precisely 24 hours earlier, it’s 6,665,326,866. That’s a difference of 123,705 people, a tiny margin on a global scale.
Finding the precise minute
As for the time of day when most people experience darkness, it’s basically when Asia, Africa and Europe are on the night side of Earth.
During that time of the year, that happens every day at 19-something UTC. That’s when night has just fallen in Europe. It’s also when the first sun rays of the new day have not yet reached the far east of Asia.
That said, you probably noticed that the time we calculated for December 21 (21:44 UTC) falls out of line. That’s because the inclusion of nautical and civil twilight makes for a larger geographical area. An area that now stretches all the way from Japan in the east to some of North America’s most populous metropolitan areas, such as New York and Montreal, in the west.
As you can see in the screenshots of our Day and Night Map, it is only when including the two brightest twilight phases that any significant portion of North America’s population joins the “dark side.”
Wherever you are, enjoy the dark skies!
If this sounds too gloomy and can’t wait for days to get longer again, let us sweeten the deal. Look at how much dark skies have to offer during that time of the year.
If the weather plays along, wrap up warm and go outside to enjoy the spectacular Geminids meteor shower. At its peak on December 14-15, we expect about 150 shooting stars per hour.
A few days later, on December 22-23, the Ursids meteor shower peaks, bringing us about ten meteors per hour.
Take it with a grain of salt
While we’re confident in our calculations and data sets, determining how many people experience nighttime at any one moment is a rather messy business.
For one, the world’s population isn’t static. It changes over time, and in some locations, it does so at a different pace than in others. We based our calculations on the latest reliable population data we could find, but they are from 2020.
What’s more, the margins are minuscule. While our algorithms identified a specific instant when most people experience night, they also gave us plenty of other dates and times during the Northern Hemisphere winter with a nighttime population that is just a tiny fraction smaller. We’re talking a few tens of thousands of people. Peanuts compared to the world’s population.
Bottom line: On December 6, the largest percentage of the human population sees a moment of global darkness.
Members of the EarthSky community – including scientists, as well as science and nature writers from across the globe – weigh in on what’s important to them.
November 25, 2022
In 1833, two years after Miller began to present in public the evidences of Christ’s soon coming, the last of the signs appeared which were promised by the Saviour as tokens of His second advent. Said Jesus: “The stars shall fall from heaven.” Matthew 24:29. And John in the Revelation declared, as he beheld in vision the scenes that should herald the day of God: “The stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.” Revelation 6:13. This prophecy received a striking and impressive fulfillment in the great meteoric shower of November 13, 1833. That was the most extensive and wonderful display of falling stars which has ever been recorded; “the whole firmament, over all the United States, being then, for hours, in fiery commotion! No celestial phenomenon has ever occurred in this country, since its first settlement, which was viewed with such intense admiration by one class in the community, or with so much dread and alarm by another.” “Its sublimity and awful beauty still linger in many minds…. Never did rain fall much thicker than the meteors fell toward the earth; east, west, north, and south, it was the same. In a word, the whole heavens seemed in motion…. The display, as described in Professor Silliman’s Journal, was seen all over North America…. From two o’clock until broad daylight, the sky being perfectly serene and cloudless, an incessant play of dazzlingly brilliant luminosities was kept up in the whole heavens.”—R. M. Devens, American Progress; or, The Great Events of the Greatest Century, ch. 28, pars. 1-5.
“No language, indeed, can come up to the splendor of that magnificent display; … no one who did not witness it can form an adequate conception of its glory. It seemed as if the whole starry heavens had congregated at one point near the zenith, and were simultaneously shooting forth, with the velocity of lightning, to every part of the horizon; and yet they were not exhausted—thousands swiftly followed in the tracks of thousands, as if created for the occasion.”—F. Reed, in the Christian Advocate and Journal, Dec. 13, 1833. “A more correct picture of a fig tree casting its figs when blown by a mighty wind, it was not possible to behold.”—”The Old Countryman,” in Portland Evening Advertiser, November 26, 1833.
In the New York Journal of Commerce of November 14, 1833, appeared a long article regarding this wonderful phenomenon, containing this statement: “No philosopher or scholar has told or recorded an event, I suppose, like that of yesterday morning. A prophet eighteen hundred years ago foretold it exactly, if we will be at the trouble of understanding stars falling to mean falling stars, … in the only sense in which it is possible to be literally true.”
Thus was displayed the last of those signs of His coming, concerning which Jesus bade His disciples: “When ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” Matthew 24:33. After these signs, John beheld, as the great event next impending, the heavens departing as a scroll, while the earth quaked, mountains and islands removed out of their places, and the wicked in terror sought to flee from the presence of the Son of man. Revelation 6:12-17.
Many who witnessed the falling of the stars, looked upon it as a herald of the coming judgment, “an awful type, a sure forerunner, a merciful sign, of that great and dreadful day.”—”The Old Countryman,” in Portland Evening Advertiser, November 26, 1833. Thus the attention of the people was directed to the fulfillment of prophecy, and many were led to give heed to the warning of the second advent.
In the year 1840 another remarkable fulfillment of prophecy excited widespread interest. Two years before, Josiah Litch, one of the leading ministers preaching the second advent, published an exposition of Revelation 9, predicting the fall of the Ottoman Empire. According to his calculations, this power was to be overthrown “in A.D. 1840, sometime in the month of August;” and only a few days previous to its accomplishment he wrote: “Allowing the first period, 150 years, to have been exactly fulfilled before Deacozes ascended the throne by permission of the Turks, and that the 391 years, fifteen days, commenced at the close of the first period, it will end on the 11th of August, 1840, when the Ottoman power in Constantinople may be expected to be broken. And this, I believe, will be found to be the case.”—Josiah Litch, in Signs of the Times, and Expositor of Prophecy, August 1, 1840.
At the very time specified, Turkey, through her ambassadors, accepted the protection of the allied powers of Europe, and thus placed herself under the control of Christian nations. The event exactly fulfilled the prediction. (See Appendix.) When it became known, multitudes were convinced of the correctness of the principles of prophetic interpretation adopted by Miller and his associates, and a wonderful impetus was given to the advent movement. Men of learning and position united with Miller, both in preaching and in publishing his views, and from 1840 to 1844 the work rapidly extended. GC 333.1 – GC 335.1