Sunrise – Start your day early

Sunrise or sun up is the instant at which the upper edge of the Sun appears over the eastern horizon in the morning.  The term can also refer to the entire process of the Sun crossing the horizon and its accompanying atmospheric effects.

The timing of sunrise varies throughout the year and is also affected by the viewer’s longitude and latitude, altitude, and time zone. These changes are driven by the axial tilt of Earth, daily rotation of the Earth, the planet’s movement in its annual elliptical orbit around the Sun, and the Earth and Moon’s paired revolutions around each other. The analemma can be used to make approximate predictions of the time of sunrise.
Time of sunrise in 2008 for Libreville, Gabon. Near the equator, the variation of the time of sunrise is mainly governed by the variation of the equation of time. See here for the sunrise chart of a different location.
In late winter and spring, sunrise as seen from temperate latitudes occurs earlier each day, reaching its earliest time near the summer solstice; although the exact date varies by latitude. After this point, the time of sunrise gets later each day, reaching its latest sometime around the winter solstice. The offset between the dates of the solstice and the earliest or latest sunrise time is caused by the eccentricity of Earth’s orbit and the tilt of its axis, and is described by the analemma, which can be used to predict the dates.

Variations in atmospheric refraction can alter the time of sunrise by changing its apparent position. Near the poles, the time-of-day variation is exaggerated, since the Sun crosses the horizon at a very shallow angle and thus rises more slowly.

Accounting for atmospheric refraction and measuring from the leading edge slightly increases the average duration of day relative to night. The sunrise equation, however, which is used to derive the time of sunrise and sunset, uses the Sun’s physical center for calculation, neglecting atmospheric refraction and the non-zero angle subtended by the solar disc.

Location on the horizon
Neglecting the effects of refraction and the Sun’s non-zero size, whenever and wherever sunrise occurs, it is always in the northeast quadrant from the March equinox to the September equinox and in the southeast quadrant from the September equinox to the March equinox. Sunrises occur due east on the March and September equinoxes for all viewers on Earth.  Exact calculations of the azimuths of sunrise on other dates are complex, but they can be estimated with reasonable accuracy by using the analemma.


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