Wanted: Yearlight Calendar Unveils The Mysteries Of Dusk And Dawn

Custom calendars show how dawn, dusk, sunrise, and sunset make each day of the year feel a little different.

Time zones be damned, every point on earth experiences daytime in nighttime differently. For example, if you’re on the eastern or western edge of a time zone, sunsets might be an hour off. And all throughout the year, the periods of dusk and dawn are changing all the time, so that even the daylight you do get feels totally different. Artist Bradley Pitts has created a beautiful calendar system that acknowledges all this temporal weirdness.



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Each Yearlight calendar is printed for a particular spot on the globe. By feeding your longitude and latitude into the system, Pitts can create a custom prediction of the timing of local sunrise, sunset, noon, moonrise etc. This turns out to be a surprisingly hard problem. The Earth, Moon, Sun, Venus, Mars, and even Jupiter all pull upon each other, thus introducing wobbles into the motion of each. Thus, the math predicting how each one travels gets complicated, fast.

Here’s the key, and a detail of the daily charts:

To account for all of these factors, Pitts and team ended up calculating the Sun and Moon’s position for every minute of every day. All of this data is compressed down into a series of rings, coloured in CMYK for the three kinds of twilight (civil for the period after sunset when you can still work without lights, nautical for when you can still distinguish between sky and horizon, and astronomical for when it seems dark to human eyes but is still too bright to see galaxies).

For the particularly precise, Pitts is offering a limited edition of 100 prints that can be calculated to the precision of a particular room (and it’s still not perfect; buildings, hills, and other physical features will change the shape of your personal horizon and weather conditions will change the way light bends around the earth).

The result is rows and rows of patterned rings changing brightness as the planet passes through the seasons and rotating left or right depending on where your locations is relative to the meridian of your time zone. The idea driving all of this is that location matters. By creating these highly precise, highly personal charts, Pitts explores the shifting interaction between rational, pragmatic time and our personal experience of time in nature.

The astounding amount of background calculation that goes into this work is an example of what BERG’s Matt Webb has called big maths for trivial things. As computation has gotten cheaper and cheaper it’s enabled all kinds of new interactions. Graphical user interfaces with flourishes like typography and rounded corners (trivial things) were enabled by cheaper rendering and it changed the nature of our relationship with the machines. Similarly, the Yearlight calendar couldn’t exist without vast quantities of computation and astronomical data to render the charts.

It’s harder to imagine a purer example of the big maths for trivial things philosophy than a precisely calculated schedule of the movement of the spheres for anyone, anywhere on the planet, to hang on their wall.

Click here to pre-order the Yearlight calendar; top image by Markus Gann]

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2 Comments

  • Marguerite Pitts

    The difference between calendars is fascinating, as well as the the details of each calendar.  They are beautiful and intellectually complex.