Every year this time I am compelled to point out the day in December with the earliest sunset. Where I live, that day is December 9th, which means I am now safely on the far side of the solstitial crepuscular cusp. Since I’m not an early riser, that means I’ll be seeing a little more of the sun every day from now until next summer. That, in my opinion, is worth a stiff drink and some seasonal good cheer.
I refer you to analemma.com if you’re puzzled as to why the earliest sunset does not coincide with the solstice. Celebrating the earliest sunset is a nicely localized tradition, since (unlike the solstice itself) the day varies dramatically depending on your latitude. Speaking of analemmas, APOD recently featured this lovely animation of the sun’s seasonal progress over New Jersey.
Also, in news astronomical, I’m glad to report that my Sky Clock is back in business again. The data source I use to locate the planets, ephemeris.com, was offline for a while, but it’s healthy again. I made an animation to show how the Sky Clock changes over one day, one month, and one year. Below is the animation for a year. Notice the arm-like lines that indicate sunrise and sunset. You can see them closing like a caliper in late December before releasing us for another year. Thank goodness.