When does it start getting lighter in the mornings and evenings in the UK?

a close up of a woman looking at a sunrise because it is lighter in the mornings

Fed up with those dark winter days? Well, there's good news as the UK's mornings and evenings start getting lighter.

Waking up on a winter morning and seeing it's still dark outside is enough to make most of us want to fall back asleep. But it's something we've all learnt to get used to - thanks to seasons being very much a fact of life.

With most of us wrapped up in jumpers and boots, many are dreaming of warmer weather and the start of summer (opens in new tab), which coincides with the annual Summer Solstice (opens in new tab) in June. And the good news is that following the Winter Solstice (opens in new tab), things might be looking a bit brighter very soon.

When does it start getting lighter in the morning?

Mornings in the UK start getting lighter after 21 December. This means that from late December until late June (when the Summer Solstice takes place) the mornings will gain a couple more minutes of light each day.

The reason mornings appear so dark between December and January is to do with earth's elliptical orbit of the sun. "This, combined with the tilt of the earth, means that mornings stay darker", says Dr Marek Kukula, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory (opens in new tab), Greenwich.

Earth tilts on its axis at 23.5 degrees, which during the Winter Solstice is away from the sun, causing most of the Northern Hemisphere to be in darkness. In contrast, the Southern Hemisphere (continents like Australia, Antartica and most of South Africa) are in the optimum position to receive sunlight, otherwise known as the Tropic of Capricorn. This is inevitably why Australia experiences their summer when the UK has their winter.

Whilst the Winter Solstice took place on 21 December in 2021, it has been known to take place on 22 December too. As was the case in 2019.


When does it start getting lighter in the evening?

After the Winter Solstace on 21 December, evenings in the UK start getting lighter a few minutes more each day. It will also feel lighter in the evenings when the clocks go forward an hour on 27 March 2022 for Daylight Savings Time. This remains until 30 October when the clocks go back (opens in new tab) an hour.

The clock change occurs right after the Spring Equinox, which will take place on 20 March this year. This is when Earth's equator line is exactly 50:50 with the sun - meaning day and night become equal length.

What month does it start getting lighter?

The end of December is when days gradually start to get lighter - following the Winter Solstice. This means that each month onwards will include more daylight hours, and this continues to the Summer Solstice in June.

Interestingly in January another event takes place called perihelion. This is when the earth is closest to the sun during it's orbit (about 3% more). The greek word perihelion can be broken down into peri (meaning near) and helios (meaning sun) suggesting this event. In 2022, earth's perihelion took place on 4 January at 6:52am.

How many minutes a day does it get lighter in the UK?

The UK gets lighter by 2 minutes and 7 seconds each day following the Winter Solstice on 21 December. This equates to an extra hour of daylight a month from 18 January onwards.

The reason this happens is because of earth's orbit of the sun. As it moves anticlockwise around the sun, the Northern Hemisphere slowly moves out of the darkness it's been placed in during Winter. And so this equates to a few more minutes of sunlight each day.

a scientific diagram explaining why the days start getting lighter

Credit: Canva

What is the shortest day in the UK?

The shortest day in the UK is 21 December. This date is known as Winter Solstice and marks the shortest amount of sunlight we receive on one day in the year - totalling on average around 7 hours and 49 minutes of light.

In 2021, Shetland reported the lowest hours of daylight for the Winter Solstice, with sunrise at 9.08am and sunset at 2.57pm. Which meant just 5 hours and 49 minutes of light.

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What is the longest day in the UK?

In the UK, the longest day falls on 21 June, 2022. This is known as the Summer Solstice - the start of summer and indeed the day that the Northern Hemisphere receives the most amount of sunlight. In 2021, the sun rose at 4.52am and didn't set until 9.26pm - giving us 16 hours and 38 minutes of blissful daylight.

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