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Alaskan village to get two sunsets Friday

KOTZEBUE, Alaska -- In an Eskimo village where the sun has been setting before it rises every day in recent weeks, Friday will be even more unusual: The sun will set twice.

The National Weather Service confirmed the phenomenon Wednesday.

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'I've been in charge of that weather station four times and I still have a hard time explaining it,' said Ray Downs, who once worked in the Kotzebue office and now compiles weather data in Anchorage.

When a UPI reporter first questioned NWS meteorological technician Don Koutchak in Kotzebue about the possibility of a double sunset on Friday, the weather specialist said, 'Somebody's probably playing jokes on you. The sun only sets once.'

But Koutchak checked his sunrise and sunset tables and then said, 'That's pretty strange. We'll have two sunsets in one day.'

Friday will begin in the Chukchi Sea coastal town with sunset just after midnight. The sun will rise Friday at 5:53 a.m. It will set again, for the second time, at 11:56 p.m.

The double sunset in one calendar day is a peculiarity of the latitude, longitude and time zone of the northwest Alaska village, said Brian Lynn, a meteorologist in Fairbanks.

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Kotzebue, located just above the Arctic Circle, has not always had the distinction of having the sun set twice in a single day. When Alaska's four times zones recently were squeezed into two in an attempt to make people feel closer together, Kotzebue changed time zones, giving it the other ingredient necessary for the double sunset, Lynn said.

But things have been a little unusual in the Kotzebue region anyway. For several weeks now, the sun -- when it sets at all -- sets early in the morning and then rises.

'Every day for weeks the sun sets before it rises (in a single calendar day),' Downs said.

Friday's first sunset really belongs to Thursday, which began with Wednesday's sunset.

On Saturday, Kotzebue returns to what most people take for normal. First the sun will rise. Then, later that night, the sun will set.

As Robert Service, bard of the north, put it:

'There are strange things done in midnight sun.'

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