Image via Wikipedia
Tonight at 11:30 PM (CST) the Winter Solstice occurs. It’s an astronomical event that always perks me up. What is Winter Solstice, other than some pagan holiday that probably had a lot to do with the placement of Christmas on December 25?
According to TimeandDate.com:
“The December solstice occurs when the sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, it is when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun. Depending on the Gregorian calendar, the December solstice occurs annually on a day between December 20 and December 23. On this date, all places above a latitude of 66.5 degrees north (Arctic Polar Circle) are now in darkness, while locations below a latitude of 66.5 degrees south (Antarctic Polar Circle) receive 24 hours of daylight.”
What does that mean to those of us who just look at the sky? The day before the solstice (today, December 21) has the shortest period of daylight of any day of the year. From there on, daylight hours get longer for the next 6 months. Hope for us who have the tendency toward S.A.D.
Stonehenge at Winter Solstice
I always look forward to the day of Winter Solstice (December 21, 2010, 22:38 GMT or 5:38CST). It is the shortest day of the year. Daylight hours will only increase for the next 6 months. That should give you folks with seasonal affective disorder (I have suffered from it) something to look forward to. Winter Solstice also marks the first day of winter, and, in the words of English poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley: If winter comes, can spring be far behind?
The Solstice is also the day I usually start counting down the days until Daylight Savings Time kicks back in – Sunday, March 13, 2011.
I will leave it to you to read about the ancient and modern astronomical and religious significance of Winter Solstice.
And if you are reading this on 12/20, don’t miss the total lunar eclipse tonight, well, tomorrow morning, 12/21, at around 12:30 AM here in Memphis, with the greatest shadow about an hour later. Check your local media for times in your area. This eclipse is supposed to be widely visible in North America. Of course, if you are into historic statistics, I am sure you will scamper to Google to see how often a total lunar eclipse happens the same day as Winter Solstice. The last time it happened was in 1638.
Happy Holidays! Funny how they seem to coincide with Winter Solstice every year.
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- Winter Solstice Coincides With Lunar Eclipse December 2010 (nowpublic.com)
- Winter Officially Begins With The Shortest Day Of The Year (huffingtonpost.com)