Our Winter Solstice.

Is the moment of publishing this post.

I thought it would make a nice change to publish tomorrow’s post a little earlier than usual. To be precise to publish it on Dec. 22, at 04:48, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Or in our local Pacific Standard Time (PST) UTC-8 hrs or 20:48 Dec. 21., i.e. 20:48 on the evening of the 21st December. (I am seeing the exact time being declared as 04:48 or 04:49 UTC depending on what you read.)

Granted that the Northern Hemisphere tends to deliver the worst of the Winter weather after the shortest day, it still is good to know that for the next six months, the hours of daylight, in the Northern Hemisphere, will be increasing.

My inclination to write a post on the topic was greatly influenced by a most beautiful post over on Val Boyco’s blogsite. It was called And Winter Came.  Here’s the video that Val included in her post.

Isn’t that a most beautiful few minutes!

Impossible to top that!

But I can continue including an informative item that was published over on Mother Nature News, and is republished here within the terms of MNN.

ooOOoo

8 things to know about the winter solstice

From when it happens to why, here’s your crash course on the shortest day of the year.

By: Melissa Breyer, December 18, 2015

Hello, winter. (Photo: psynovec/Shutterstock)
Hello, winter. (Photo: psynovec/Shutterstock)

“A day without sunshine is like, you know, night,” quipped Steve Martin – and indeed, even a day with less sunshine can feel a bit dark. Our world depends on the light radiating from that big star we traipse around, and when it’s in short supply, we feel it. But if you count yourself amongst those who don’t love waking up before the sun rises and getting off work after it has set, things are about to lighten up. Hello, winter solstice!

Although winter is really just beginning, we can at least say goodbye to these short little days we’ve been suffering (and don’t let the door hit you on the way out). With that in mind, here’s a collection of curious facts to celebrate the long-awaited return to longer days.

1. There are actually two winter solstices every year


It’s sometimes easy to be hemisphere-o-centric, but the other side of the planet gets a winter solstice too. With the planet’s orbit tilted on its axis, Earth’s hemispheres swap who gets direct sun over the course of a year. Even though the Northern Hemisphere is closer to the sun during the winter, it’s the tilt away from the sun that causes cold temperatures and less light — which is when the Southern Hemisphere is toasty. So while our winter solstice is on Dec. 21 or 22, the Southern Hemisphere celebrates the same on June 21 or 22.

Here’s how that looks from space (kind of):

2. The winter solstice happens in the blink of an eye


Although the solstice is marked by a whole day on the calendar, it’s actually just the brief moment when the sun is exactly over the Tropic of Capricorn that the event occurs.

3. Which is why it happens on different days in the same year

What? Yes! In 2015, the solstice happens on Dec. 22, at 04:49 on the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) time clock, the time standard that the world regulates its hours by. Which means any location that is at least five hours behind UTC should break out the party hats on Dec. 21. For example, in the United States the winter solstice happens on Dec. 21 at 11:49 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The rest of the time zones can welcome longer days beginning on the 22nd.

4. It’s the first day of winter … or it’s not, depending on whom you ask

Meteorologists consider the first day of winter to be Dec. 1, but ask an astronomer — or just about anyone else — and they’ll likely answer that the winter solstice marks the start of the season. There are two ways to look at it: meteorological seasons and astronomical seasons. Meteorological seasons are based on the annual temperature cycle, explains NOAA, while astronomical seasons are based on the position of the Earth in relation to the sun.

5. It’s a time of gloriously long shadows

Shadows are at their playful best on the solstice. (Photo: Mike Page/flickr)
Shadows are at their playful best on the solstice. (Photo: Mike Page/flickr)

If you’re inclined to take pleasure in the little things, like shadows that seem cast from a funhouse mirror, then the winter solstice is the time for you. It’s now that the sun is at its lowest arc across the sky and thus, shadows from its light are at their longest. (Imagine a flashlight directly above your head and one hitting you from the side, and picture the respective shadows.) And in fact, your noontime shadow on the solstice is the longest it will be all year. Relish those long legs while you can.

6. Full solstice moons are rarer than blue ones

Since 1793, the full moon has only occurred on the winter solstice 10 times, according to the Farmer’s Almanac. The last one was in 2010, which was also a lunar eclipse! The next full moon on a winter solstice won’t be until 2094.

7. There’s a Christmas connection

Since Christ wasn’t issued a birth certificate, there’s no record of the date when he was supposed to have been born. Meanwhile, humans have been celebrating the winter solstice throughout history — the Romans had their feast of Saturnalia, early German and Nordic pagans had their yuletide celebrations. Even Stonehenge has connections to the solstice. But eventually Christian leaders, endeavoring to attract pagans to their faith, added Christian meaning to these traditional festivals. Many Christmas customs, like the Christmas tree, can be directly traced to solstice celebrations.

8. It’s a reminder to thank Copernicus

Will the real Saint Nick please step forward? (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Will the real Saint Nick please step forward? (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The word “solstice” comes from the Latin solstitium, meaning “point at which the sun stands still.” Since when has the sun ever moved?! Of course, before Renaissance astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (aka “super smartypants”) came up with the ‘ol heliocentric model, we all figured that everything revolved around the Earth, sun included. Our continued use of the word “solstice” is a beautiful reminder of just how far we’ve come and provides a nice opportunity to give a tip of the hat to great thinkers who challenged the status quo.

And now go have some hot cocoa. Happy winter!

ooOOoo

Only one way to close. That is with this picture of the sun perfectly aligned with the stones at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, UK at the moment of the Winter Solstice.

The December solstice happens at the same instant for all of us, everywhere on Earth. This year the solstice occurs on Tuesday December 22nd at 04:49 GMT (Universal time) with the sun rising over Stonehenge in Wiltshire at 08:04.
The December solstice happens at the same instant for all of us, everywhere on Earth. This year the solstice occurs on Tuesday December 22nd at 04:49 GMT (Universal time) with the sun rising over Stonehenge in Wiltshire at 08:04.

Stay safe and warm wherever you are.

The next post from Learning from Dogs will be published at 00:00 PST Wednesday, 23rd December.

10 thoughts on “Our Winter Solstice.

      1. Presumably in your case, Oregon neighbour, someone who was born and bred an OR lass? Not like yours truly who crept in, albeit legally, just a little more than three years ago! 😉

  1. Thanks Paul for this informative read.
    Our summer solstice in Australia today. On the east coast ( Sydney, Melbourne) the sun rose this morning at 5.55 am. Sunset was at 8.42 pm. A lovely, sunny day – not too hot.

    1. Give my regards to Sydney. I once worked in the offices of ICI Aust Inorganic Chemicals Division located at North Circular Quay. Never forget the views from the office windows!

  2. Wonderful Post Paul.. and now the shortest day has passed and each day we gain a few more minutes of light.. 🙂 Loved all the facts presented Paul.. 🙂 I hope you enjoyed your Winter Solstice 🙂

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